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Baha’u’llah makes it clear that individual spiritual progress cannot occur if one deliberately chooses to live apart from society.
Baha’is believe that one must serve others, cultivate human relationships, and work for the benefit of humanity. For this reason asceticism is not allowed. While chastity is expected, taking vows of celibacy for religious purposes is not a part of the Baha’i teachings.
The Baha’i Faith recognizes the family unit as the basic building block of society. Thus Baha’u’llah strongly encourages marriage, but does not make it obligatory. Only monogamy is permissible, and only between members of the opposite sex. Abdu’l-Baha describes Baha’i marriage in the following terms:
Marriage, among the mass of the people, is a physical bond, and this union can only be temporary, since it is foredoomed to a physical separation at the close.
Among the [Baha’is], however, marriage must be a union of the body and of the spirit as well, for here both husband and wife are aglow with the same wine, both are enamored of the same matchless Face, both live and move through the same spirit, both are illumined by the same glory. This connection between them is a spiritual one, hence it is a bond that will abide forever. Likewise do they enjoy strong and lasting ties in the physical world as well, for if the marriage is based both on the spirit and the body, that union is a true one, hence it will endure. If, however, the bond is physical and nothing more, it is sure to be only temporary, and must inexorably end in separation.
When, therefore, the people of Baha undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as a physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 117.
The Baha’i Faith does not allow for arranged marriages. Instead, husband and wife should both freely choose each other, then seek the permission of their parents to marry. Baha’is are free to marry outside of their religion; the most important issue to consider when choosing a mate is character. Abdu’l-Baha advises the believers to choose their mates with care:
Baha’i marriage is union and cordial affection between the two parties. They must, however, exercise the utmost care and become acquainted with each other’s character. This eternal bond should be made secure by a firm covenant, and the intention should be to foster harmony, fellowship and unity and to attain everlasting life … – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in J.E. Esselmont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 177.
Divorce is strongly discouraged among Baha’is, but is permissible in cases where aversion and differences are insurmountable, provided that there has been a sincere attempt on the part of both husband and wife to reconcile. In a Baha’i marriage, husband and wife are expected to strive to repair their union for at least one full year after separation before divorce is finalized.
Baha’u’llah places great emphasis upon the unity of the family and the mutual support of its members. Children should be obedient to their parents. Parents are obliged to ensure character training and education for their children and must provide for their material needs until they become self-sufficient.
True marriage—the physical and spiritual union of two people with the aim of serving God and humanity—is one of the most rewarding and joyous aspects of life. Such a union is described by Baha’u’llah as “a fortress for well-being and salvation.” – The Most Holy Book, p. 205.