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Baha'i Decision Making Process

Steps in Decision Making

Baha'i Decision pr

The writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and also the message of 5 March 1922 from the Guardian identify three distinctive decision making steps:[1]

a)      Understanding the situation

b)      Deciding what to do

c)      Executing or carrying out the decision

Some other Bahá’í references expand these three steps, particularly when consultation in a Spiritual Assembly is considered. For example in The Light of Bahá’u’lláh four steps are defined:[2]


  1. Initially all the facts on the issues related to the problem are obtained and accepted by the members.

  2. All the guidance and teachings available in the Writings of the Faith on the problem are reviewed and noted by the Assembly.

  3. The Assembly then undertakes a frank discussion on the problem, considering the prerequisites and conditions of Bahá’í consultation.

  4. After full discussion, the Assembly decides on the action to solve the problem. It is desirable that the decision is unanimous. If this is not possible, a majority vote is acceptable.


‘Abdu’l-Bahá provides further spiritual laws for the participants in consultation:


“They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden.”[4]


This is the process of establishing facts and developing a better understanding of the problem. Consultation is not about imposing one’s opinion on others but it is the process of finding the truth with full openness and frankness. Insisting on one’s opinion will not only cause disunity and conflict but will prevent the truth from being revealed.


"The honoured members must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth ….”[5]


While the participants in the consultative process are expected to express their views “with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation”, they are not permitted to hide their thoughts but encouraged to freely express them. Bahá’í consultation requires a fair balance between tactfulness and freedom of expression. The feeling of self-superiority, which often results in ridiculing other people’s views and putting them down, has no room in Bahá’í consultation. The essence is to express the truth as one sees it with humility and moderation.


"It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously, though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced.”[6]


The aim of consultation is to establish unity and justice. Hence, when a decision is reached, all the participants should consider it as a manifestation of truth and wholeheartedly support that decision even if they had a view contrary to it during consultation. Hence all the members should aim to execute the decision and avoid criticizing it afterwards. Any errors will soon become obvious and can be corrected by further consultation.


Warning in the Decision Making Process

‘Abdu’l-Bahá  finally gives the following warnings and assurances:

"Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be non-existent, that gathering shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught.”


"In short, whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light, and should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness ….”


"If this be so regarded, that assembly shall be of God, but otherwise it shall lead to coolness and alienation that proceed from the Evil One ….”[7]


[1] John E. Kolstoe: Consultation: A Universal Lamp of Guidance, George Ronald, England,

pp. 25–35.

[2] The Light of Bahá'u'lláh, An Introduction to the Bahá’í Faith, p. 95.

[3] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 87–89.

[4] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, no. 45, p. 88.

[5] Ibid

[6] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, no. 45, p. 88.

[7] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, no. 45, p. 88.

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