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Where does justice originate? The core of justice has to do with morality—the morals of an individual and the morals of a given society—and those come directly from religion.
Many people think of morality as static and unchanging, but morality evolves over time, depending on the circumstances and the age—as does justice. What might have constituted justice in past ages would be seen as pure barbarity today. That’s why Baha’is believe religion must be renewed from age to age.
Justice can mean different things to different people, without a doubt. Usually it is concerned with redressing a crime or assessing penalties for a criminal act, as in the trial and court process. It can be associated with fairness and equity, or recrimination and revenge. Man’s so-called justice can be uniform in its application or skewed, even corrupt. It can vary from person to person and nation to nation. Human justice systems are invariably flawed. But what about divine justice—God’s justice?
Divine justice, the spiritual and behavioral core values of morality that emanate from religion, promulgates universal and timeless laws. Those laws deal with the core of human behavior, with the basic ethics each one of us must decide to accept or reject. Those laws, Baha’is believe, are eternal:
The religion of God consists of two parts: One is the very foundation and belongs to the spiritual realm; that is, it pertains to spiritual virtues and divine qualities. This part suffers neither change nor alteration … It will never be abrogated, for it consists in spiritual rather than material truth. It is faith, knowledge, certitude, justice, piety, high-mindedness, trustworthiness, love of God, and charity. It is mercy to the poor, assistance to the oppressed, generosity to the needy, and upliftment of the fallen. It is purity, detachment, humility, forbearance, patience, and constancy. These are divine qualities. These commandments will never be abrogated, but will remain in force and effect for all eternity. These human virtues are renewed in every Dispensation … – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 54-55.
In this context, think about the Ten Commandments and the law of love promulgated by Jesus Christ, or Muhammad’s injunctions in the Qur’an:
… they do not worship another god with Allah; nor kill someone, which Allah has forbidden except for just cause … – Surih Al-Furqhan, verse 68.
In this day, Baha’is believe, divine law emanates from Baha’u’llah’s book of laws, his Most Holy Book:
Direct thine attention to the holy Tablets; read thou … the Most Holy Book. Then wilt thou see that today these heavenly Teachings are the remedy for a sick and suffering world, and a healing balm for the sores on the body of mankind. They are the spirit of life, the ark of salvation, the magnet to draw down eternal glory, the dynamic power to motivate the inner self of man. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 60.
One example of divine law changing, yet primarily staying the same, is Baha’u’llah’s simple injunction in his Most Holy Book to not kill others:
Let none contend with another, and let no soul slay another; this, verily, is that which was forbidden you … What! Would ye kill him whom God hath quickened, whom He hath endowed with spirit through a breath from Him? Grievous then would be your trespass before His throne! Fear God, and lift not the hand of injustice and oppression to destroy what He hath Himself raised up; nay, walk ye in the way of God, the True One. –Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 45.
Except in self-defense, killing is forbidden for Baha’is, and even then it is to be avoided if at all possible. Although Baha’is may serve in the armies of their nations, they do so as medics and other non-combatants. You can find variants of this “no-kill” law—a re-assertion of the Jewish and Christian law “Thou shalt not kill”—in every great Faith.
The Baha’i teachings say “the best-beloved of all things … is justice,” and even name the democratically-elected Baha’i local, national and global councils “Houses of Justice.” On December 25, 1938, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith and its head after Abdu’l-Baha’s passing, released a trenchant 77-page letter titled The Advent of Divine Justice to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada, which became a roadmap of guidance for all Baha’is worldwide. In it, Shoghi Effendi had this to say about the titles of those elected institutions:
Small wonder, therefore, that the Author of the Baha’i Revelation [Baha’u’llah] should have chosen the name and title of that House [the Universal House of Justice], which is to be the crowning glory of His administrative institutions, not with forgiveness but with justice, to have made justice the only basis and the permanent foundation of His Most Great Peace, and to have proclaimed it in His Hidden Words as “the best beloved of all things” in His sight. – pp. 28-29.
These institutions established by Baha’u’llah at the local, national and international levels, the councils charged with administering the affairs of Baha’is worldwide, are based on justice as their very foundation. After prayerful consideration of the facts and open consultation, their elected members arrive at their decisions to guide and direct the affairs of individuals and communities. This new system of religious governance stands in stark contrast to today’s broken, ineffectual and compromised judicial and governmental systems. Baha’u’llah’s system is based on supplication, love, reliance upon God, and faith that even should a wrong decision be effected, it can be and will be corrected with unity.
“Think not,” Baha’u’llah wrote in his Most Holy Book, “that we have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather have We unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.” – p. 21.
This “choice wine”—the spiritual, moral and social laws, precepts, exhortations, injunctions and guidance contained in the word of God revealed for this day and age—are intended to bring about the complete regeneration and transformation of every human being on Earth.