Edited By Soli Shahvar
3. The Introduction of Monogamy in the Iranian Bahá’í Community, 1873‒1936: A Study in the Progressive Application of Religious Law
A distinguishing feature of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions, which emerged in Iran in the mid-nineteenth century, is their position on women’s rights and gender relations. Elevating the status of women in society was one of the main objectives of both the Báb (1819–1850) and Bahá’u’lláh (1817–1892), the founders of the new religions. In fact, in the Bahá’í Faith the equality of women and men is recognized as a spiritual, moral and social principle. The Bábí religion restricted polygamy (specifically, polygyny), and the Bahá’í religion proscribed it altogether.
The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh also promulgated other laws and teachings that promoted equality of the sexes and contrasted sharply with the gender-discriminatory practices prevailing in Iran and the wider Middle East and North Africa. For example, they emphasized the requirement of bridal consent to marriage; restricted husbands’ unfettered right to divorce; banned existing forms of temporary marriage, which were degrading to women; and granted women greater inheritance rights. Bahá’u’lláh also raised the minimum marriageable age and made it equal for males and females, accorded wives the right to obtain a divorce and abolished concubinage. He rejected the notion of a hierarchy of authority between marriage partners and condemned cruelty and aggression against women, which also applied to partner violence. Furthermore, He provided for the establishment of institutions that ←59 | 60→would be responsible for the implementation of various categories of Bahá’í laws,...
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