understand that the family is the basic unit of society. Unless this all-important
building block is healthy and unified, society itself cannot be healthy and unified.
Monogamous marriage stands at the foundation of family life.
Bahá'u'lláh said marriage is "a fortress for well-being and salvation." The Bahá'í writings further state that married couples
should strive to become "loving
companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity..."
Bahá'ís view preparation for marriage as an
essential element in ensuring a happy marriage. The process of preparation includes a
requirement for parental approval of the choice of a spouse. This does not mean that
Bahá'í marriages are arranged. Individuals propose marriage to the persons of their own
choice. However, once the choice is made, the parents have both the right and the
obligation to weigh carefully whether to give consent to, and thus guide, their offspring
in one of life's most important decisions.
Bahá'ís believe that this requirement helps
to preserve unity within the marriage--and within the extended family. As did previous
Messengers of God, Bahá'u'lláh asks His followers to honor their parents. Obtaining
parental permission for marriage reaffirms the importance of the bond between child and
parent. It also helps to create a supportive network of parents in the often difficult
first years of a marriage.
Simple vows and ceremony
Once parental permission is
obtained, the marriage takes place, requiring only the simplest of ceremonies. In the
presence of two witnesses designated by the local Bahá'í governing council, the couple
recites the following verse: "We will all, verily, abide by the will of God."
For Bahá'ís, that simple commitment to live by God's will implies all of the commitments
associated with marriage, including the promises to love, honor, and cherish; to care for
each other regardless of material health or wealth; and to share with and serve each
Beyond these simple requirements, Bahá'ís
are free to design their own marriage celebration. Depending on personal tastes, family
resources, and cultural traditions, Bahá'í ceremonies run the gamut from small to large,
including all manner of music, dance, dress, food and festivity.
As in most religions, the marriage vow is
considered sacred in the Bahá'í Faith. The partners are expected to be absolutely
faithful to each other.
The Faith's emphasis on the equality of women
and men, however, and its promotion of consultation as a tool for problem-solving mean
that the roles of husband and wife within a Bahá'í marriage are not the traditional
ones. Women are free to pursue careers that interest them; men are expected to share in
household duties and child-rearing.
So-called "interracial marriage" is
also encouraged in the Bahá'í teachings, which stress the essential oneness of the human
Divorce is allowed but
If a Bahá'í marriage fails,
divorce is permitted, although it is strongly discouraged. If Bahá'ís choose to seek a
divorce, they must spend at least one year living apart and attempting to reconcile. If a
divorce is still desired after that year, it is then granted, dependent on the
requirements of civil law. This "year of patience," as it is known to Bahá'ís,
is supervised by the local Spiritual Assembly, the local Bahá'í governing council.
The key purpose of Bahá'í marriage--beyond
physical, intellectual and spiritual companionship--is children. Bahá'ís view
child-rearing not only as a source of great joy and reward, but as a sacred obligation.
While stating firmly that women must enjoy
full equality with men, Bahá'u'lláh's teachings also recognize explicitly the innate
differences between the feminine and masculine natures--both physical and emotional.
Bahá'ís understand, accordingly, that mothers have a special role to play in the early
education of children--especially during the first few years of life when the basic values
and character of every individual is formed.
Since Bahá'ís believe that the soul appears
at the moment of conception, the parents pray for the well-being of the unborn child while
it is still in the womb. Education in general, and Bahá'í education in particular are of
paramount importance in Bahá'í families. From their earliest years, the children are
encouraged to develop the habits of prayer and meditation, and to acquire knowledge, both
intellectual and spiritual.