I get the question fairly often: how do Baha’is feel about drug use?

I know many people whose own encounter with drugs, either personally, through a loved one, or professionally, will forever influence their opinion that mind-altering substances should never be legalized. Conversely, many others feel that it makes sense to do so. Opinions come down hard on both sides of the question.

The con rationale insists that legalization will increase “gateway” use, thus opening the user to more dangerous drugs. Legalization opponents argue that use of mind-altering substances will increase crime, decrease public and workplace safety, negatively impact health, and affect work performance. The net result, they claim, will cost society both in productivity and dollars.

The pro rationale argues that legalizing drugs could be economically beneficial. One libertarian study estimates that legalizing drugs could save about $41.3 billion annually in enforcement costs alone, and produce another $46.7 billion in higher tax revenues. The study claims that state, local and the federal government would all benefit financially, balancing budgets and erasing massive fiscal deficits.

Legalize Marijuana Protest

Many of the pro and con arguments revolve around the issue of money, which means the ultimate decision for legalization may depend on what drug policies can save or generate the most income.

Material arguments predominate in the press, with spiritual considerations left to our houses of worship. The all-too-visible human wreckage seems to lack, for many, the power to prevent use. Without specific and clear spiritual education, however, some people view the consequences of use through the eyes of “now, without considering an eternal future.

The Baha’i Faith offers a clear and consistent vision on this subject. For Baha’is, the question isn’t a legal one—instead, it centers on the life of the human spirit. Baha’is simply avoid mind-altering chemicals, including alcohol and other drugs. Baha’u’llah begins:

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… – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 75.

Abdu’l-Baha, writing about the use of hashish and the opiates, adds:

Regarding hashish . . . Gracious God! This is the worst of all intoxicants, and its prohibition is explicitly revealed. Its use causeth the disintegration of thought and the complete torpor of the soul. How could anyone seek the fruit of the infernal tree, and by partaking of it, be led to exemplify the qualities of a monster? How could one use this forbidden drug, and thus deprive himself of the blessings of the All-Merciful? Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but this opium, this foul fruit of the infernal tree, and this wicked hashish extinguish the mind, freeze the spirit, petrify the soul, waste the body and leave man frustrated and lost. – The Most Holy Book, Notes, p. 239.

Baha’is believe that drug and alcohol use can have serious health implications – but that the spiritual impact is potentially much greater. Abdu’l-Baha cautions us:

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. No greater harm can be conceived than that which opium inflicteth. Fortunate are they who never even speak the name of it; then think how wretched is the user.” – The Most Holy Book, Notes, p. 238.

He reminds us that the use of the opiates is not the only pitfall when he says “the user, the buyer and the seller are all deprived of the bounty and grace of God.”

The heated legalization debate continues for now and for the immediate future. However, wisdom dictates that we factor a new voice, the voice of Baha’u’llah, into our personal decision making. His instruction raises a very important question: When we consider the use of a mind-altering chemical that has the ability to “petrify the soul,” can money ever be the only issue?

How much is your soul worth? Would there ever be enough money to buy it? If you follow the guidance of the Baha’i writings on the use of mind-altering substances, you may never have to ask yourself those hard questions.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

35 Comments

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  • Taavi Yusuf
    Mar 06, 2017
    Allow it for medical purposes, for surely God does not wish for us to suffer-- as in the case of our fast, people with illness or medical conditions are excused. Doctors that feel their Bahai patient needed medical marijuana to help treat PTSD, the patient should not feel ashamed if for some reason this became public knowledge within the Bahai community.
  • Smyrna Jaunbocus
    Oct 18, 2016
    Hi, what if the use of marijuana was for medical purposes. Hash / Hashish in the middle east refers to a deviate of Opium not from the Hemp plant !!
  • Emily Goldberg
    Jul 21, 2016
    But when Abdul'-Baha says Hashish, he is referring to opium not marijuana. In many countries in the middle east Hash or hashish is a drug made from opiates where as in the western world hash and hashish refer to marijuana. So is anyone able to clarify what drug Abdul'-Baha is really referring to?
  • Dec 04, 2015
    Thought provoking quotations of Bahaullah and Abdul Baha, an eye opening account , much impressive
  • Jan 11, 2015
    I would not recommend it, nor use it, for recreational purposes, but I Wonder what the Faith would have to say about its medical applications, especially in alleviating chronic pain. So, to me, I would not condemn marijuana completely. As for other drugs, they are DRUGS and probably each one has therapeutic virtues. Therefore, they can, in due context be considered, prescribed and used as medicines. And limited to that, stricktly. Unless there are other virtues or applications I don't know of. So, it is not a black-and-white thing. It needs nuances. And maturity.
  • Judy
    Jun 09, 2014
    Thank you Sherv for your thoughtful input.
  • Judy
    Jun 09, 2014
    Hi Ashkon, I did include this statement and the actual quotation in my original essay which was somehow left out when posted. However, I also provided the statement and quotation in one of my responses above. You are correct, it was important to include.
    "As far as drugs being used for medical treatment, it is clearly stated in The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes, pg 239, "that the above prohibition against taking certain classes of drugs does not forbid their use when prescribed by qualified physicians as part of a medical treatment.” This was in my original article and ...someone it was not included in the final post - sorry."
    However, when reading any essay in Baha'i Teachings I think it's important to remember that they are short and can never completely cover every aspect on any subject matter under consideration. Hopefully what they do is spark interest, questions and the independent investigation of the truth. In the final analysis the only thing any contributer can provide is what they understand about the teachings of Baha'u'llah at that particular point in time. We learn and grow, and since the Faith has no clergy, we get to do this together.
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  • Stephen Gray
    Jun 07, 2014
    Moderation is a virtue that people tend to forget about.
    Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. It is used to ensure normality throughout the medium on which it is being conducted. Common uses of moderation include:
    Ensuring consistency and accuracy in the marking of student assessments.
    A moderator may remove unsuitable contributions from the website, forum or IRC channel they represent in accordance with their moderation system.
    A more proactive nuance is found in the Methodist church's use of the term for the heads of its conferences.
    A neutron moderator is used to slow down neutrons ...in a nuclear reactor.
    A way of life emphasizing perfect amounts of everything, not indulging in too much of one thing, hence moderation.
    A lifestyle choice by which many college students abide so as not to become alcoholics.
    Moderation is also a principle of life. In ancient Greece, the temple of Apollo at Delphi bore the inscription Meden Agan (μηδὲν ἄγαν) - 'Nothing in excess'. Doing something "in moderation" means not doing it excessively. For instance, someone who moderates their food consumption tries to eat all food groups, but limits their intake of those that may cause deleterious effects to harmless levels. Similarly in Christianity, moderationism is the position that drinking alcoholic beverages temperately is permissible, though drunkenness is forbidden (see Christianity and alcohol). Moderation is a characteristic of the Swedish national psyche, more specifically described by the Swedish synonym Lagom. Moderate Muslims adhere to the concept of contextual relativism as a way to grasp meaning from the Quran.
    Moderation is considered a key part of one's personal development in Taoist philosophy and religion and is one of the three jewels of Taoist thought. There is nothing that cannot be moderated including one's actions, ones desires and even thoughts. It is believed that by doing so one achieves a more natural state, faces less resistance in life and recognises one's limits. Taken to the extreme, moderation is complex and can be difficult to not only accept, but also understand and implement. It can also be recursive in that one should moderate how much one moderates (i.e. to not be too worried about moderating everything or not to try too hard in finding a middle ground). Moderation as a principle of Taoist Philosophy turns up in all three of its main texts. It is a lifelong process attempting to moderate oneself as there is no specific goal nor guide one can use making it an internal process as well as ongoing (or unending).
    Taboo food and drink are food and beverages which people abstain from consuming because of a religious or cultural prohibition. Many food taboos forbid the meat of a particular animal, including mammals, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, bony fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Some taboos are specific to a particular part or excretion of an animal, while other taboos forgo the consumption of plants, fungi, or insects.
    Food taboos can be defined as rules, codified or otherwise, about which foods, or combinations of foods, may not be eaten and how animals are to be slaughtered. The origins of these prohibitions and commandments are varied. In some cases, these taboos are a result of health considerations or other practical reasons, in others, they are a result of human symbolic systems. Some foods may be prohibited during certain religious periods (e.g., Lent), at certain stages of life (e.g., pregnancy), or to certain classes of people (e.g., priests), although the food is in general permissible.
    People understand each society, culture, religion, etc has taboos and prohibitions, but rather don't follow them because they aren't a part of such. Culture wars are also part of the issue. Life issues, sexuality, parenting, drugs, environment, energy, society, culture, law, government, etc are all fronts in the culture war. Dietary/sexual regulations/restrictions for example vary from religion to religion and religious group to religious group. The only valid reason people think of following said regulations is religious conversion to a group with said regulations.
    Life issues
    Abortion / Reproductive rights
    Right to die movement and euthanasia
    Stem-cell research
    Sexuality
    Age of consent
    Homosexuality, Gay rights, and Same-sex marriage
    Pornography
    Prostitution
    Sexual revolution
    Education and parenting
    Creation-evolution controversy
    Family values
    Homeschooling and Educational choice
    Corporal punishment and Child discipline, most notably spanking
    Sexual education and abstinence only education
    Drugs
    Legal drinking age
    Recreational drug use and Drug decriminalization
    Harm reduction
    Environment and Energy
    Global warming and climate change mitigation
    Society and culture
    Animal Rights
    Feminism
    Gun politics
    History wars
    Race, affirmative action
    Media bias in the U.S.
    Moral absolutism vs. Moral relativism
    Multiculturalism
    Permissive society
    Political correctness
    Secularism and Secularization
    Law and Government
    Capital punishment
    Law and order
    Separation of church and state
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  • siberianveggies
    Jun 06, 2014
    Thank you for writing this considered article, Judy! The impact of intoxicating drugs on the soul is certainly missing from the wider social discussion. Unfortunately, in the United States we have a tendency to reduce complex issues to 2 sides, (this article avoided doing this.) Choosing between 2 platforms gets in the way of a nuanced discussion of how to deal with the problem. For instance, "should drug X be legal?" is a different question from "if illegal, how should prohibition be enforced?". And then there is the separate question: "If drugs result in spiritual harm to everyone they touch, ...regardless of their religious beliefs, what should be done?" Perhaps this last question is the most useful, and I'm not sure what the answer is.
    I think we have seen with alcohol that once a drug is legal, it's almost impossible to impose partial prohibitions. The USA age limit for drinking is 21, but this rule is flouted so often that it's almost a joke. It's all very well to have rules about not drinking and driving, but in practice the decision falls to people who are already in a mentally impaired state with lowered inhibitions. Legalization also removes the last barrier to companies putting their full efforts into advertising and advocating alcohol use, so much so that it can be very hard to avoid alcohol. I have even come across it in my workplace. The point I want to make is, legalization is likely to lead to a drug becoming even more widespread in society. I don't think anyone uses marijuana because it's illegal, they use it in spite of it being illegal.
    I fully agree that prohibition has created serious problems, namely high incarceration rates and cartel violence. Is it possible to address these problems by changing the approach to prohibition? Are there other prerequisites to a successful effort to curb the use of drugs that lie outside the criminal justice system?
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    • Judy
      Jun 07, 2014
      Baha'is understand a social problem is really a spiritual problem in disguise. Society has certainly thrown the book of material solutions at this situation and they seem to have come up short. How do we get from material to spiritual? First, I think it's necessary that children have a spiritual education - no matter what religion - to obtain a sense of their true identity - which is a soul having a human experience in prepartion for a spiritual life after death. An understanding that they are not solely an animal governed by instincts alone, but ...are a human being blessed with a soul and rational mind would go a long way. I wrote another essay entitled "How to Find True Happiness and Greatness" which touches on a material versus a spiritual identity. You may want to read. J
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