The divorce law of Baha’i FaithPosted: November 16, 2011
The regulation of divorce is another matter that vitally affects the relation of man and woman. The divorce law of Baha, as prescribed in the “Kitab-ul-Akdas,” is a loose one.
I again quote from Professor Browne’s translation.356 It will be noticed that the conditions of the law are set forth from the standpoint of the man. “If quarrels arise between a man and his wife, he may put her away. He may not give her absolute divorce at once, but must wait a year that perhaps he may become reconciled to her. At the end of this period, if he still wishes to put her away, he is at liberty to do so. Even after this he may take her back at the end of any month so long as she has not become the wife of another man.” “The practice of requiring a divorced woman to cohabit with another man before her former husband can take her back is prohibited.” (This abolishes one of the vile laws of Mohammedanism.)
“If a man is travelling with his wife and they quarrel, he must give her a sufficient sum of money to take her back to the place they started from and send her with a trustworthy escort.” From these quotations it is evident that the wife is dependent on the good pleasure and whim357 of the man. He may put away; he may take back. The law says nothing of her right to divorce him. It does not appear that she has the right to divorce her husband even in case he is guilty of adultery.
The penalty for adultery is slight. A fine of nineteen miscals of gold, equal to fifty to sixty dollars, is imposed for the first offense and this is doubled for the second offense. The fines are to be paid to the “House of Justice.”
According to the “Bayan” of the Bab the husband must pay the divorced wife a dowry of ninety-five miscals of gold ($300) if they are city folks, and ninety-five miscals of silver ($10) if they are villagers. These are paltry sums even on the basis of Persian poverty. I may say, in passing, that the Laws of Inheritance give to the father a greater portion than to a mother, to a brother greater than to a sister, and gives the family residence to a male heir.
Freedom from the marriage bond is made easy by desertion. “Married men who travel must fix a definite time for their return and endeavour to return at that time. If their wives have no news from them for nine months, after the fixed period, they can go to another husband. But if they are patient it is better, since God loves those who are patient.”
How the husband who is away from his wife can act, we may judge by the example of a celebrated Bahai,358 Maskin Kalam, who was agent for Baha to watch over and spy upon Azal and the Azalis in Cyprus. His wife was in Persia; he simply took another in Cyprus.
The ease with which desertion may be practiced under Bahai law is seen in the conduct of Doctor Kheiralla, one of the first apostles of Bahaism to America, and founder of the Chicago Assembly. Dr. H. H. Jessup wrote: “A cousin of Doctor Kheiralla, who is clerk in the American Press in Beirut, gave me the following statement: ‘Doctor Kheiralla, after the death of his first wife in Egypt, in 1882, married first a Coptic widow in El Fayum, whom he abandoned, and then married a Greek girl, whom he also abandoned, and who was still living in 1897 in Cairo. He then married an English wife, who abandoned him when his matrimonial relations became known to her.'” 359
According to the claims of Bahais these loose and imperfect divorce and marriage laws are to be accepted and administered universally under the future kingdom of Baha in its world-wide triumph!
It may be remarked in passing that Bahaism encourages the mixture of races by marriage. Already several American Bahais have married Persian women, and Persian men American women. One American Bahai woman has married a Japanese.
Abdul Baha illustrates the relation of the races by a reference to animals. “Consider the kingdom of the animals. A pigeon of white plumage would not shun one of black or brown.” In a tablet sent to America, he directs: “Gather together these two races, black and white, into one assembly and put such love into their hearts that they shall even intermarry.”360
Again he says:361 “The coloured people must attend all the unity meetings. There must be no distinctions. All are equal. If you have any influence to get the races to intermarry, it will be very valuable. Such unions will beget very strong and beautiful children.” Mr. Gregory, an American negro, followed this advice by marrying an English woman, Miss L. A. M. Mathew
356 Jour. Roy. As. Soc., 1892.
357 “The wife is still in a helpless state; her fate remains entirely in the power of her husband’s caprice “(Vatralsky in Amer. Jour. of Theology, 1902, p. 72).
358 “Trav.’s Narr.,” pp. 378-379.
359 Outlook, of New York, quoted in The Missionary Review, October, 1901, p. 773.
360 “A Heavenly Vista,” by L. G. Gregory, p. 31.
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