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13. THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

November 2, 2007

On a trip to Israel you might decide to cross Haifa Bay by boat, not on foot because how could you? And then you may wish to walk towards the beautiful Ben Gurion Boulevard. From there, you’d see straight up the slopes of the famous Mount Carmel.

 

Dominating and dug into that mountain, if a wee bit lopsided, is the Baha’i World Centre with its fabulous terraced gardens and imposing Greek-styled buildings. This is the headquarters of the Baha’i Faith.

 

Within the precincts of the World Centre is a big white building called the Seat of the Universal House of Justice. The Universal House of Justice is the name given to the supreme governing institution of the Baha’i Faith and its six to eight million adherents that span the whole planet. It is an infallible institution and Bahai’s believe that its decisions should be treated as if uttered by God. It is part of God’s succession plan with man. After the prophet founder Bahá’u’lláh came his son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, then came the Guardian Shoghi Effendi, the grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Finally, the baton was passed to the Universal House of Justice.

 

It is also an elected institution. Every five years the national Baha’i Houses of Justice, themselves elected yearly, come to Haifa to elect nine men to the Universal House of Justice. Yes, men. For a reason which will become blindingly apparent to everyone in the future, membership of the supreme governing institution of a religion which has gender equality as one of its main teachings is restricted to males.

 

If new members are elected they must move to Haifa to begin their service. This would not be a burden for any male Baha’i as Haifa has many fringe benefits – a beautiful climate, nice restaurants, a very supportive and appreciative Baha’i community and, importantly, most of the Faith’s historical sites. Until recently, Haifa and nearby `Akká were the locations for Baha’i pilgrimage. So, when you live in Haifa you’ve hit a spiritual jackpot. There are currently three thousand Baha’is in Haifa and `Akká who share in this bonanza. The vast majority are young and on their Youth Year of Service. Their temporary, voluntary service positions are hotly sought after. And why wouldn’t they be? On your days off you might start with some prayers at the Shrine of the Bab, the prophet forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh, then meander through the terraces for the morning. Go on, grab some lunch in the way, way, down underground canteen, get your hair tousled by a UHJ member or two, then head to `Akká to meet some friends at the House of `Abdu’lláh Páshá. Your party might then go to the nearby Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahjí, the direction the whole Baha’i world prays to. And if you dallied too long in `Akká such that the Shrine closed, no matter, you have the keys. Keys to places that might as well be God. Forget Napoli, die in Haifa.

The Baha’i Faith believes a New World Order is being birthed by Bahá’u’lláh that will last five hundred thousand years. The Universal House of Justice will rule over this New World Order.

The Universal House of Justice had had a difficult relationship with Layla. Beautiful Layla baby had been born in Haifa and had lived within the Baha’i World Centre for a couple of months. Her hair had been much tousled by all and sundry. That included all the dignitaries from the International Teaching Centre that runs the appointed arm of the Baha’i administration; all the Universal House of Justice members; many of the Hands of the Cause of God, including ‘Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, the wife of the Guardian Shoghi Effendi.

Most surprisingly, growing up in Australia, Layla didn’t confirm herself as a Baha’i. As Layla found fame due to her extraordinary exploits around the world, the Universal House of Justice issued a message to the Baha’i community distancing itself from her, but in a nice way.

The Universal House of Justice
Baha’i World Centre
Department of the Secretariat
15 May 2010

To the Baha’is of the World

Dear Baha’i Friends,

In recent months the House of Justice has received many letters from the Friends concerning Layla Parkin and her status in the Baha’i Faith. The House of Justice confirms that, although both her mother and father are Baha’is in good standing, she is not and has never been a member of the Baha’i Faith.

This should in no way detract from this lady’s remarkable achievements as each soul is encouraged by Bahá’u’lláh to a path of independent investigation. Bahá’u’lláh has exhorted His followers to consort with all people in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. However, the House of Justice reminds the Friends that it would be patently unfair to publicly associate this lady with a Faith, no matter how wondrous, that is alien to her.

The efforts of the Friends to supply the House of Justice with accurate information about Layla Parking (sic) and her activities are deeply appreciated. It will pray that the teaching and consolidation work in which you are engaged may draw upon you the confirmations of the Almighty.

Sincerely yours,
For Department of the Secretariat

 

The chatter on the main Baha’i stream forums immediately extrapolated the House’s message into a better-safe-than-sorry injunction that Bahai’s should back away from Layla. Although no primary evidence was presented, a number of well-respected posters reported that they had heard from Australian Baha’i friends that certain amounts of un-Baha’i-like behaviour, possibly to do with alcohol or inappropriate sexual relations, could be attributed to Layla. Hence, it was in the interests of the Baha’i Faith not to draw attention to Layla’s Baha’i links.

 

Later, when Layla turned her hand to demonstrations of supernatural ability, many Baha’is began to openly construe that she was their next manifestation (prophet).

The Universal House of Justice
Baha’i World Centre
Department of the Secretariat
26 December 2025

To the Baha’is of the World

Dear Baha’i Friends,

The globe continues on its tumultuous course as the Six Year Plan reaches heightened production capacity enabling the community of the Most Great Name to fashion a huge gait towards the advancement of the process of entry by troops.

Assured as we are of the ultimate triumph of the Cause, we dare not forget the warning of the Guardian that the Faith will have to contend with enemies more powerful and more insidious than those who have afflicted it in the past. The implications which are significant for the progress of the community of the Most Great Name also impact the evolution of an increasingly global society in the throes of a turbulent transition.

The point round which the Baha’i teachings revolve is unity. We have been dismayed at the divisive reaction of some of the Friends to the purported miracles of Layla Parkin. As has been reflected upon by the Centre of the Covenant, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, miracles do not a manifestation make. We feel compelled to remind the Friends that the essential understanding of Baha’is concerning their own Faith is that its Founder, Baha’u’llah, is the latest Divine Messenger from God, Who has established a dispensation for a duration of at least one thousand years, after which a new Manifestation will come. As the Blessed Beauty authoritatively recounts in the Mother Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:

“Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. We pray God that He may graciously assist him to retract and repudiate such claim. Should he repent, God will, no doubt, forgive him. If, however, he persisteth in his error, God will, assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him. Terrible, indeed, is God in punishing!

There is no respite in this clear statement for those who would argue against its relevance to female pretenders! There is no searching allowed for the next manifestation until 2852 AD! Furthermore, Layla Parkin does not claim that she has received new revelation. Please Friends, embrace unity and be not of those that gather old world superstitions about them. This, then, is our ardent hope for you and the object of our most fervent prayers at the Sacred Threshold.

Sincerely yours,
For Department of the Secretariat

 

At this point Layla did respond to the Universal House of Justice, cc’ing it to the Baha’i stream forums.

Hello boys. Look, I agree with you. I’m not your next prophet. However, I do have an instinct for the purest things and your letter really stinks. When I was young I thought very highly of the Universal House of Justice. How low it has sunk! And, by the way, no-one, no-one can read to the end of your letters!

I have a recommendation that would help with your incumbency problem and your lack of fresh thinking. Why are you still nine members? That was always the minimum, not optimal, number. Change it to ninety nine, or better still, nine hundred and ninety nine. That’ll get the churn rate up, don’t you worry about that. You’ll absolutely have a gang of new members each five years to invigorate the institution. Better still you could cut down on the voluntary service numbers as the House members could double up as gardeners, security guards and other positions as long as a quorum was maintained. How about virtual meetings? Let the members stay at home and meet virtually in a secure stream. Make it nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine then. So many beautiful minds for consultation!

Now stop! Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine men consulting around the UHJ table – doesn’t that place a magnifying glass on the silliness of not having women eligible?

 

Mind you, the populace in general was unaware of this dialogue. Almost no-one had heard of the Universal House of Justice and everyone was entranced by Layla.

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