Bab v/s Bahaullah

One of the strange turns in Bahá’í legal history was the reversal of the Báb’s progressive consent decree:

It hath been laid down in the Bayan that marriage is dependent upon the consent of both parties. Desiring to establish love, unity and harmony amidst Our servants, We have conditioned it, once the couple’s wish is known, upon the permission of their parents, lest enmity and rancour should arise amongst them.

Kitáb-i-Aqdas

In making this pronouncement, Bahá’u’lláh returned to parents the final say in the choice of spouses.

Though this seems to be a regressive move to the modern observer, Bahá’ís are compelled to find something progressive in it, and thus take an orthodox stance.

Bab

Bahaullah

I can say from personal observations that Bahá’u’lláh’s consent law is one of the most divisive Bahá’í laws. Because parents are obligated to either approve or disapprove, and not permitted to abstain, they are effectively obligated to meddle.

The Báb made a point of liberating marriage from the power plays of parents. For better or for worse, Bahá’u’lláh reversed a radical move by the Báb, perhaps because he felt the Báb had gone too far.

Bahá’u’lláh didn’t do anything original by outlawing arranged marriages. He was merely adopting Bábí law in part. In fact the Báb is the one who made the big move here, whereas Bahá’u’lláh took a more traditional approach. The Báb was more of a radical reformer. Of course he got a little extreme in some aspects, such as in book burning and holy war, but he was a truer catalyst for change.

When Bahá’ís defend such rigid and archaic laws, they sound like Mormons defending polygamy, which is another difficult subject for educated Bahá’ís. The bottom line is that Bahá’u’lláh’s laws were traditional Muslim laws, with a few modifications. The Aqdas,indeed, reads like an ammendment to the Qur’an. No big surprise: the Qur’an was a very important book to Bahá’u’lláh; moreso even than it was to the Báb.



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