The General Nature of Divine Laws
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #4
November 4–6, 1994
(see list of papers from #4)
The wisdom and rationale of any one of the Baháíí laws will be more clearly and thoroughly understood when it is studied in the light of the context of the total body of the laws and guidelines revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. It is vitally important, in such studies, to take cognizance of the general nature of the divine laws and the special provisions stipulated for their gradual implementation through a developmental process that includes authoritative interpretation and elucidation as well as continuous supplementary legislation.
Sometimes questions and issues raised in relation to the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are due to singling out a particular commandment and examining its relevance in relation to the current trends in the society without due consideration of its dynamic relationship to the totality of Baháíí laws and teachings. The same approach is usually used in comparative studies when a single law from one religion is compared to a similar provision in other religions. Disregarding the impact of the context of the total body of laws, ordinances, social teachings and spiritual principles of a religion on the meaning, advisability and feasibility of a single provision in that religion completely distorts the nature, purpose and function of that provision. There are a number of devices built into the processes of formulation, interpretation, preparation for and implementation of the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas that need to be considered for such evaluations.
Divinely revealed laws and ordinances generate a milieu and a culture of their own that affect their appreciation and observance and makes them different from "social contracts" and civil laws. In this paper an attempt is made to present the main features of the divinely revealed laws particularly in reference to the questions and issues related to the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The need for, the basis, and the sources of such body of laws are explored. The loci of the authorities and the responsibilities in the Bahá'í community, the effects of the provision for supplementary legislation and the progressive development of the laws and ordinances are briefly reviewed.
The impact of education, of the progressive implementation of the laws, of the Bahá'í philosophy of life, and of the locus of power in the Bahá'í community on the adherence to and observation of the divine laws is addressed. Mechanisms controlling the adherence to the laws, the process of implementing them, and the holistic approach to the application of the laws in the Baháíí community are examined.
The laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas can be judged in fairness only through a contextual and comprehensive approach, and with the understanding that a number of the Bahá'í laws are meant to be implemented in a mature Bahá'í community that adheres to the totality of the Baháíí teachings and in a society that is influenced by the spiritual forces of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.
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