Baha’is claim men and women are equal. On the subject of obedience, `Abdu’l-Bahā has clearly stated that women must obey their husbands:
“O Handmaids of the Self-Sustaining Lord! Exert your efforts so that you may attain the honour and privilege ordained for women. Undoubtedly the greatest glory of women is servitude at His Threshold and submissiveness at His door; it is the possession of a vigilant heart, and praise of the incomparable God; it is heartfelt love towards other handmaids and spotless chastity; it is obedience to and consideration for their husbands and the education and care of their children; and it is tranquillity, and dignity, perseverance in the remembrance of the Lord, and the utmost enkindlement and attraction.”
Reference: Helen Bassett Hornby, Lights of Guidance: A Bahā’ī Reference File, chap. XVI, no. 749.
As usual, the Universal House of Justice has tried to in vain to justify this act:
This exhortation to the utmost degree of spirituality and self-abnegation should not be read as a legal definition giving the husband absolute authority over his wife, for, in a letter written to an individual believer on 22th July 1943, the beloved Guardian’s secretary wrote on his behalf:
“The Guardian, in his remarks…about parents and children, wives and husbands’ relations in America meant that there is a tendency in that country for children to be too independent of the wishes of their parents and lacking in the respect due to them. Also wives, in some cases, have a tendency to exert an unjust degree of domination over their husbands which, of course, is not right, anymore than that the husband should unjustly dominate his wife.”
Reference: Helen Bassett Hornby, Lights of Guidance: A Bahā’ī Reference File, chap. XVI, no. 750.
Whereas `Abdu’l-Bahā strictly tells women to be obedient to their husbands, the Baha’i administration plays with words in an attempt to convince their Western audience that this is not the case. A more careful analysis of the quote shows that these words simply mean a man has authority over his wife but it is not absolute and a man dominates his wife but must not do so unjustly. Thus, women must still be obedient of their husbands and are dominated by them.
There are many similar quotes and letters in the Baha’i scripture from the UHJ which try to show the contrary, none of which change the fact that the original order from `Abdu’l-Bahā was for women to obey their husbands and not the opposite. Even though so many blatant examples of discrimination and inequality between the two sexes exist in this creed, `Abdu’l-Bahā still insists that
“Men and women are equal in all rights. There is no distinction whatsoever.”
Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Payām-i malakūt, p. 232.