How the Bahá’ís are Organised

11th International Baha’i Convention
© 2014, Bahá'í International Community

How the Bahá’ís are Organised

The Bahá’í community is administered by elected bodies. These bodies operate at local, national and at worldwide level. These bodies are necessary because the Bahá’í Faith has no clergy and no professional learned class – indeed, no individual leader at any level. Every adult Bahá’í may vote, and indeed should do so. There are no nominations and no canvassing and it is a secret ballot. Every voter should regard it as a spiritual act and vote for those people who best combine spiritual qualities (such as humility, justice, compassion, for example) with ability and experience. Voting should always be accompanied by prayer.

Bahá’í elections for Local Spiritual Assemblies are held once a year. Every adult Bahá’í in the area is eligible to vote and be voted for. On which day does voting take place?
Naw Rúz
1st day of Ridván
12th Day of Ridván
Day of the Covenant
It happens on the same day all over the world.
The Local Spiritual Assembly consults the community at the Nineteen Day Feast, which is held every Bahá’í month. Who is allowed to speak at this meeting?
The Local Spiritual Assembly members
The local adult Bahá’ís
Any adult Bahá’í attending, regardless of where they are from
Any Bahá’í of any age attending, regardless of where they are from
This is a form of direct community participation, and enables everyone to offer their contribution.
The Universal House of Justice, which is the world body, is elected every 5 years. Who elects this body?
Every adult Bahá’í has a vote
The Local Spiritual Assemblies elect delegates who then elect the Universal House of Justice
Members of the National Spiritual Assemblies
The National Spiritual Assemblies elect delegates who then elect the Universal House of Justice
The election takes place at the International Convention held at the Bahá’í World Centre in the Holy Land.
What criteria should a Bahá’í use when choosing who to vote for?
The one with the most experience
The one who has the most spiritual qualities
The one who is the most able
The one who best combines spiritual qualities with ability and experience
A person’s qualities should be privately (and humbly) assessed by the voter “without the least trace of prejudice” and, as previously stated, aided by prayer.
Whenever a Bahá’í institution takes a decision, which of these should be an overriding principle?
The decision should be one which can be implemented easily, with no likelihood of difficulties or fuss
The wishes of the local population must come first, as every Bahá’í institution is based on a grass-roots election
The decision should be one which is in the best interests of mankind as a whole
The decision should be one which does not involve unnecessary expenditure, as managing community funds is a sacred trust
Bahá’u’lláh said of legislators: “They must regard themselves as the custodians of all that dwell on earth.”
Bahá’í meetings are run using a special system of Bahá’í consultation. If an individual has an idea that they wish to suggest to the group, how should they go about it?
They should explain it thoroughly, twice, to make sure everyone has properly understood it
They should type up a paper giving all the background to the suggestion, and bring copies to the meeting
They should offer the idea as a gift to the group
They should wait quietly, in a spirit of humility, until the group has exhausted every other alternative
The idea, once offered, is considered as belonging to the group and is not identified with the person who originally suggested it. It can therefore be discussed objectively by everyone.
Who elects the National Spiritual Assembly in each country?
Members of the Local Spiritual Assemblies
Every adult Bahá’í has a vote
Adult Bahá’ís elect delegates who then elect the National Spiritual Assembly
Local Spiritual Assemblies elect delegates who then elect the National Spiritual Assembly
Bahá’ís elect delegates on a regional basis to attend the National Convention, which is normally held during the Ridván festival.
What attitude should a Bahá’í have towards other people’s ideas at a meeting?
They should listen with respect
They should find a polite and tactful way of moving the group towards a quick decision
They should listen very closely to each speaker, noting carefully points which need to be argued against later
If the other speaker begins to get less interesting, they should start praying silently to themselves
Everyone has the duty to offer their thoughts and all ideas have value. `Abdu’l-Bahá said: “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.”
Ideally decisions made by a Bahá’í body should be unanimous but if necessary they can be made by majority vote. What should someone do who did not vote for a particular decision?
Try to make it work
Try to make it fail
Tell everyone he or she voted against it and that it is a bad idea
Stand on the side-lines and wait to see what happens
This preserves the unity of the community. Also, if it turns out to be the wrong decision, this will become obvious much more quickly and failure cannot simply be blamed on sabotage.
When is the International Convention held, at which the Universal House of Justice is elected?
During the Ridván festival
At Naw Rúz
During the month of fasting
The Day of the Covenant
At this convention the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies have the opportunity to meet one another and discuss matters on a world scale.


Author:  National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom

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