Family and Community
Within the family group, it is stressed that the rights of no-one should be ignored, whether husband, wife or child. Within a religion dedicated to unity, the family is clearly an essential unit. If only one partner within a marriage is Bahá’í, then for the sake of family unity they may have to forego attendance at Bahá’í meetings. However, a non-Bahá’í partner does not have the right to insist that the Bahá’í leave the faith. Religious belief is seen as between the individual and God.
Being part of the Bahá’í community is seen as a very important part of being a Bahá’í. For this reason Bahá’u’lláh said that all Bahá’ís should attend the local Feast every Bahá’í month. This includes praying together, discussion of local matters and a social time. All of these are equally important and all are conducive to the unity of the community.
The family is ideally based upon a secure marriage, marriage having been termed “a fortress for wellbeing”. In this context, children should be taught morals and a spiritual outlook. The Bahá’í family should have the outlook encouraged by Bahá’u’lláh in his advice: “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
As a part of general moral development, Bahá’ís offer children’s classes, open to all, which encourage positive social behaviour. Children from Bahá’í families are considered as Bahá’ís, and have the rights this entails. However, from the age of maturity, set by Bahá’u’lláh as 15, the choice of religion is the prerogative of the individual – the parents cannot force the young person to be a Bahá’í. The general principle which applies is that of “the individual investigation of truth”.
Offspring have a duty towards their parents. Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such a service be a path leading you to Me”.
A Bahá’í has a duty both to the Bahá’í community and to the wider community, local, national and global. The centre of the local Bahá’í community is the Nineteen-Day Feast, which is the basic meeting of the community. If possible, all should attend. There are always three parts: prayers and readings are followed by open consultation on issues facing the community, and then by a social part, deepening the bonds between the community members.
The duty of the Bahá’í towards the wider community is manifold. “Be urgently concerned with the exigencies of the age in which you live”, Bahá’u’lláh wrote. The Bahá’í scriptures emphasise the essential oneness of all human beings, and the need for the abolition of prejudice. The diversity of race and culture is seen as a positive thing, in the way that the variety of colour and form makes a garden beautiful. The vision, therefore, is of humanity being one huge extended family.