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  • Patricia Wilcox

79. Gender Qualities in the Baha'i Writings

Updated: Apr 16




The Baha'i family of our time must face with determination, perseverance, and assurance, one of the most momentous and profound challenges imaginable.


Its place is at the forefront of a revolution in the field of human relationships such as has been unknown in the entire history of mankind, in the leading ranks of those whose task is to embark upon a long, gradual and irreversible process; implementing the equality of men and women.


This new paradigm in human relationships is of special significance to the family because it is here that we experience the most sustained and intimate interface of male/female relationships, from our earliest, most impressionable years.


It is one that requires husbands and wives to revolutionise ancient roles and attitudes, to tear down traditional patterns of dominance and submission, and yet to achieve this in such a way that, rather than setting the stage for a conflicting battle of wills, the foundation is laid for such unity and harmony as will make of them a single soul.


Developing from infancy in such an atmosphere of unity and harmony, sisters and brothers will view one another as true equals, and will learn the lessons of mutual co-operation, support, and respect, taking as an enduring example the relationships portrayed daily by their parents.


Until this day, the order and functioning of the family, as for the community and the nation, was a reflection of the inferior role of women. The dominance of the male meant also a predominance in the qualities in which men are strong.


SOME QUALITIES OF MEN


"The world in the past has been ruled by force and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind." --`Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, 1976 U.S. edition, p.156.


"...man is more inclined to war than woman..". ---`Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 278 (Vol II)


Again it should be emphasised that these particular strengths of women must be viewed in light of the understanding that neither sex has exclusive spiritual qualities, that it is the greater or lesser degree of a quality that is significant. However, it is true that men and women have unique roles which draw upon those qualities in which they are generally particularly strong; so, for example, the woman is strong in those qualities which are necessary to bear, nurture and raise infants, but unique in her physical abilities to do so.

SOME QUALITIES OF WOMEN

"In some respects woman is superior to man. She is more tenderhearted, more receptive, her intuition is more intense." ---'Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks,1961 U.K. edition, p.162


"...mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service in which women are strong."--`Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'u'llah and the New Era,1976, U.S.edition, p. 156


"Woman by nature is opposed to war; she is an advocate of peace ...naturally the most devoted and staunch advocate of International Peace." ---`Abdul'-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol II, p370


"...their hearts are tender and they cannot endure the sight of the horror of carnage... " ---`Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks,1961 U.K. edition, p.183


"...as regards tenderness of heart and the abundance of mercy and sympathy ye are superior." ---`Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks,1961 U.K. edition, p.184


"...women are most capable and efficient...their hearts are more tender and susceptible than the hearts of men...they are more philanthropic and responsive toward the needy and suffering...they are inflexibly opposed to war and lovers of peace."---`Abdul'-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,1982 U.S. edition, p. 284.


"In some respects, women have astonishing capacities: they hasten in their attraction to God, and are intense in their fiery ardour for Him".---`Abdu'l-Baha, extract from a previously untranslated Tablet, Women, p. 50.


"The woman is of indeed the greater importance to the race. She has the greater burden and the greater work....The woman has greater moral courage than the man; she has also special gifts which enable her to govern in moments of danger and crisis".---`Abdu'l-Baha `Abdu'l-Baha in London, 1982 U.K. edition, pp.102-103.


"...women will become the peers of men, and until this equality is established, true progress and attainment for the human race will not be facilitated. The evident reasons underlying this are as follows: Woman by nature is opposed to war; she is an advocate of peace. Children are reared and brought up by the mothers who give them the first principles of education and labor assiduously in their behalf. Consider, for instance, a mother who has tenderly reared a son for twenty years to the age of maturity. Surely she will not consent to having that son torn asunder and killed in the field of battle. Therefore, as woman advances toward the degree of man in power and privilege, with the right of vote and control in human government, most assuredly war will cease; for woman is naturally the most devoted and staunch advocate of international peace." ---Promulgation of Universal Peace, Talks ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá Delivered in Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Sacramento 7-26 October 1912.


These differences affect each of us, male and female, very personally, as we are freed from traditional sex-role stereotypes which over-emphasise some of our personal qualities whilst suppressing others. Free of such restraint, we are able to come to know our own selves in the infinite variety and richness of our creation, to discover undreamed-of depths, to educate and refine the gems which we find deposited by God in our innermost souls, and to offer them in the service of mankind.

80. Baha'i Comment; Equality of Roles is necessary to attain the Peaceful Oneness of Humanity. "The world in the past has been ruled by force and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind." ---`Abdu'l-Baha to an individual , 1976 U.S. edition, p.156.

"...man is more inclined to war than woman..."`---Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 278 (Vol II)


Equality does not mean sameness. Men and women have unique qualities that are different but complementary. The family unit is the training ground of the world. Until we learn to fully develop and harmonise these qualities, progress will be limited. Men have a special responsibility. Husbands must be the `helpmeets' of wives, a role defined in Collins Dictionary as "a less common word for helpmate", "a companion and helper, esp. a wife". This definition amply demonstrates how entrenched is the attitude that the role of wives is to support their husbands, and not vice versa. Men can work toward the goal of equality on many sides - in their personal attitudes, in their marriages, in Baha'i community life and in the larger sphere of human society as they exert an educative influence within their occupations, and in any clubs, sporting or cultural groups to which they may belong. "In brief, the assumption of superiority by man will continue to be depressing to the ambition of woman, as if her attainment to equality was creationally impossible; women's aspiration toward advancement will be checked by it, and she will gradually become hopeless. On the contrary, we must declare that her capacity is equal, even greater than man's. This will inspire her with hope and ambition, and her susceptibilities for advancement will continually increase. She must not be told and taught that she is weaker and inferior in capacity and qualification".---'Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,1982 U.S. edition, p.76 "When men own the equality of women there will be no need for them to struggle for their rights! "---'Abdu'l-Baha Paris Talks

"...Therefore, strive to show in the human world that women are most capable and efficient, that their hearts are more tender and susceptible than the hearts of men, that they are more philanthropic and responsive toward the needy and suffering, that they are inflexibly opposed to war and are lovers of peace. Strive that the ideal of international peace may become realized through the efforts of womankind, for man is more inclined to war than woman, and a real evidence of woman’s superiority will be her service and efficiency in the establishment of universal peace." ---–'Abdu'l-Baha, 95 – 26 August 1912 Talk at Franklin Square House, Boston, Massachusetts Notes by Edna McKinney.

"The Baha'i Writings clearly delineate those factors which are the foundation of equality. They include equality of rights, privileges, development, opportunities, advancement, education, prerogatives, qualification, and power - through the right to vote, and through equal opportunity for participation and control in human government, law, and all the administrative branches of politics; in brief, that women should have the same arena of activity as men.

Until the reality of equality between men and women is fully established and attained, the highest social development of mankind is not possible. To accept and observe a distinction which God has not intended in creation is ignorance and superstition. The fact which is to be considered, however, is that woman, having formerly been deprived, must now be allowed equal opportunities with man for education and training. There must be no difference in their education."

"Even granted that woman is inferior to man in some degree of capacity or accomplishment, this or any other distinction would continue to be productive of discord and trouble. The only remedy is education, opportunity; for equality means equal qualification"...p7, 'Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 278 (Vol II).

"And let it be known once more that until woman and man recognise and realise equality, social and political progress here or anywhere will not be possible".---'Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, 1982 U.S. edition, pp. 76-77