The Universal House of Justice

The Universal House of Justice is the head administrative body for the Bahá'í world community, based on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. The members of the Universal House of Justice are nine men, elected once every five years by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies in the Bahá'í world (currently 1,611 men and women), who themselves have been elected by delegates who were elected by proportional representation of the entire adult membership of each national Bahá'í community. 

In accordance with universally applied Bahá'í electoral principles, there are no nominations for the members of the Universal House of Justice, nor is electioneering permitted. Each elector votes for those nine Bahá'í men from any part of the world who he or she judges are best suited for the post. Moreover, the nine members do not represent specific constituencies. Each considers himself a representative of the entire Bahá'í world community. 
It is notable that out of all Bahá'í institutions, whether elective or appointive, the Universal House of Justice is the sole instance where the membership is restricted to men. Bahá'u'lláh gave no reason for this provision of the Sacred Text. The Universal House of Justice itself has stated that the ineligibility of women for membership of the Universal House of Justice cannot be adduced as evidence of the superiority of men over women. Such an assertion is inadmissible in face of the categorical pronouncements in Bahá'í Scripture establishing the equality of men and women.

Founded on a set of unique electoral and consultative principles that are democratic in spirit and method, the Bahá'í administrative order is organized around freely elected governing councils which operate at the local, national, and international levels. This hierarchy devolves decision-making to the lowest practicable level-thereby instituting a unique vehicle for grassroots participation in governance-while at the same time providing a level of coordination and authority that makes possible cooperation on a global scale. Bahá'u'lláh called these governing councils "Houses of Justice." 

The Universal House of Justice today guides the activities of the global Bahá'í community. This body was instituted by Bahá'u'lláh Himself as the supreme legislative organ of the Bahá'í administrative order. Its members, Bahá'u'lláh wrote, are "the Trustees of God among His servants."1 The Universal House of Justice itself states that "The provenance, the authority, the duties, the sphere of action of the Universal House of Justice all derive from the revealed Word of Bahá'u'lláh which, together with the interpretations and expositions of the Center of the Covenant and of the Guardian of the Cause - who, after `Abdu'l-Bahá, is the sole authority in the interpretation of Bahá'í Scripture - constitute the binding terms of reference of the Universal House of Justice and are its bedrock foundation."2 

According to the explicit texts of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá, the legislative enactments of the Universal House of Justice have the same authority for Bahá'ís as do the sacred texts themselves. The difference is that the House of Justice has the right to repeal and alter any of its enactments as the Bahá'í community evolves and new conditions emerge, whereas the laws enshrined in the Bahá'í texts will remain unchanged. `Abdu'l-Bahá states that all questions and issues not explicitly addressed in the Bahá'í sacred writings "must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the truth and the purpose of God Himself."3 

  1. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 128. 
  2. Universal House of Justice, The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice (Bahá'í World Center, 1972), p. 4. 
  3. The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 149. 
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