Baha’i Faith and Politics
As is commonly known, Baha’is do not participate in partisan politics or political debates:
“Religious matters should not be confused with politics in the present state of the world (for their interests are not identical). Religion concerns matters of the heart, of the spirit, and of morals. Politics are occupied with the material things of life. Religious teachers should not invade the realm of politics; they should concern themselves with the spiritual education of the people; they should ever give good counsel to men, trying to serve God and human kind; they should endeavour to awaken spiritual aspiration, and strive to enlarge the understanding and knowledge of humanity, to improve morals, and to increase the love for justice.”
– ‘Abdu’l-Baha’, Paris Talks, pages 58-159.
In the Bahá’í Faith, the principle of non-involvement in partisan politics is based on our ultimate goal: unity.
“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
– Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, page 14.
As a result, Baha’is are encouraged to create social change through dialogue and action instead of aligning with one particular party. However, for citizens living in democratic countries, ‘Abdu’l-Baha emphasized the importance of voting – it is necessary to have an active voice in selecting who governs their country. Therefore, Baha’i believers must partake in the electoral process if they want to make sure that their opinion on vital matters such as laws and leadership can be heard.
“ … as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.” -Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’, Volume 2, page 342.
In a democratic society, every citizen has the crucial responsibility of voicing their opinion via their vote.
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, also said that the Baha’is
“… may vote, if they can do it, without identifying themselves with one party or another.”
So Baha’is vote, but don’t support one political party over the other.
How does voting work if you don’t support one party?
As the Baha’i Faith provides a set of guidelines which no political party fully embraces, adherents to this religion choose not to support any particular organization:
“No Bahá’í can be regarded as either Republican or Democrat, as such. He is above all else, the supporter of the principles enunciated by Baha’u’llah, with which, I am firmly convinced, the programme of no political party is completely harmonious …” – Shoghi Effendi,
It is understandable that political parties may have policies which are aligned with some of the Bahá’í Principles, however there will inevitably be other aspects and components which contradict them. As a result, Baha’is must ensure to remain unaffiliated to any organization or party that does not fully embrace all of their Faith’s values and teachings.
How can Baha’is participate in elections when they don’t engage in partisan politics?
For Baha’is, the focus is on voting for a person and their policies rather than any political party. If permissible in the nation they live in, Baha’is do not register as members of a certain party but instead maintain autonomy when it comes to voting.
Ahead of an election, any Bahá’í who desires to cast their vote does so after examining each candidate carefully and thoughtfully. They weigh the policies, character traits, and background experiences of every option before settling on the one they feel would make for a compassionate yet capable leader.
This implies that every time somebody votes, they can vote for candidates of separate political parties without showing any allegiance to a particular party or leader.
Although the Baha’i electoral system is distinct from more traditional secular voting systems, due to its lack of nominations and campaigning, each voter can still use Baha’i principles as guidance while casting their ballot. By selecting candidates whose policies are in the most alignment with Bahá’í Principles – specifically world unity, gender equality, freedom from prejudice and discrimination, and closing inequality gaps – we demonstrate our commitment to these values through meaningful action.
However, while Baha’is make the personal decision of who to vote for, they strive not to become immersed in the culture of admiration that often overwhelms countries during election season.
The Baha’i Faith advocates for making wise, unbiased decisions that are not influenced by what is expressed in the media.
Baha’is who choose to vote should make a thoughtful selection of the candidate they believe is most suited for office, however, must remain detached from the outcome. No matter what result transpires, Baha’is accept it as right and just since that choice was made by majority decision and therefore cannot condemn or judge what has been unanimously chosen.
Citizens must remain loyal to their government and restrain from tearing apart its authority with contrary political commentary or public condemnation.
As Baha’is, we are obligated to listen and adhere to the laws of our governments – unless they go against fundamental Baha’i principles. Should any government order us to reject or ignore our beliefs, it is both permissible and necessary for us to take a stand in defense of truth.
Although Baha’is can elect leaders they deem appropriate, ultimately their efforts and aspirations rest in the constructive social forces of their belief.