Four means devised by Bahā’u’llāh and `Abdu’l-Bahā to Equalize the means of livelihood

If the purpose of this principle is the assistance of the needy by the wealthy and implementation of a series of laws and legislations which help in closing the income gap between different groups of the community, then yes it is completely logical and rational. The problem in reaching such a goal, is to bring forward a practical program and to introduce a system which allows the efficient implementation of such a program.

`Abdu’l-Bahā believes the only program that can reach this goal is the one devised by Bahā’u’llāh:

“The economic problem will not be completely solved but by these teachings, rather, it is impossible [to solve them by any other method].”

Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Payām-i malakūt, p. 135.

He believes that to overcome economic problems, the first group in which reform must take place in are the farmers because they make up the bulk of the working class:

“The economic problem [must be solved] by starting from the farmers until it reaches other groups. For the population of farmers is many more times higher than other [working] classes. Thus, it is worthy to start from the farmers and farmers are the foremost working class of the community. Yes, in each village a council consisting of the most rational people of the village must be set up and the village must be managed by that council. A public storehouse must be built and a secretary assigned to it. At the time of harvest, with the knowledge of the council, some of the produce from [all farmers] must be taken to supply the storehouse.”

Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Payām-i malakūt, pp. 135–136.

What `Abdu’l-Bahā proposes is neither novel nor exceptional. The only point that is somewhat troubling is the fact that the poor farmers and peasants have been selected as the first class that must be reformed. This reformation is in no way helpful to them because they must give up some of their produce for the welfare of others, while the role of other groups in this system has not been specified.

The justification for starting with the peasants is even more interesting: they make up a larger portion of the community. Would it not be better to start with the minority groups who hold the largest wealth in the community and not the majority groups who are themselves the neediest? It seems awfully convenient for the small elite controlling all the wealth that it is the farmers and pheasants who should take the first step.

Four means have been devised by Bahā’u’llāh and `Abdu’l-Bahā to Equalize the means of livelihood

  1. Inheritance

Inheritance is distributed amongst seven groups.

“The deceased’s property are split into 2520 portions. Out of these, 1080 are for the children, 390 for the wives, fathers 330, mothers 270, brothers 210, sisters 150, teachers 90”

Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Ganjīniy-i ḥudūd wa aḥkām, chap. 10, pp. 117–119.

Under some circumstances portions of the inheritance are handed over to the Universal House of Justice. If deemed appropriate, the UHJ can use some of this money for equalization of the means of livelihood or for propagating Baha’i beliefs. Inheritance is only distributed in the aforementioned manner if the deceased does not leave a will. If the deceased has specified in his will for his wealth to be distributed in a manner which goes against the equalization of the means of livelihood, no one can protest his or her decision.
Furthermore, inheritance usually stays in the family and is not distributed in the community to help those who are in need.

In any case, the laws of inheritance in the Baha’i creed do not have a meaningful influence in achieving the goal of the current principle, and are sometimes in conflict with it. For instance, as we already pointed out, the living residence of the deceased becomes the property of his eldest son, even if the deceased has left no other wealth.

2. Tax

In the Baha’i creed two kinds of taxes are payable. The first is paid to the government according to the laws of each country. The government then does with these taxes what it wishes, whether waging war or helping the needy. This tax has nothing to do with equalizing the means of livelihood.

The second is called `ushr (one tenth) which is a religious tax imposed on Baha’is in accordance with Baha’i law.

`Abdu’l-Bahā says:

“It is not fair to put the same tax on both the rich and the needy. The needy must be exempted from paying tax. It is not fair that the needy pay one tenth as tax and the wealthy pay one tenth too . . . laws are needed [to address this] issue . . . I will tell you God’s law [regarding this issue] . . . the farmers plant crops in a village and produce is harvested. One tenth of the harvest is taken from both the rich and the needy [as tax]. Then a public storehouse is erected in the village and both the tax and the produce are gathered there. It is then possible to see who is wealthy and who is poor. Nothing will be taken from the farmers who have been able to produce only enough to feed their families and procure their daily needs. All the produce and taxes are now in the general storehouse. If there are crippled people in the village, their minimum sustenance will be provided from the storehouse. On the other hand, a wealthy person who [for instance] needs only fifty thousand kilos for a living but has produced five hundred thousand kilos will be taxed twice as much (meaning one fifth) and whatever remains in the storehouse at the end of the year will be employed for general use.”

Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Payām-i malakūt, pp. 148–150.

In this plan which is slightly different from the previous one, the poor still remain poor and the rich, rich. In the aforementioned system, the poorer farmer classes achieve nothing extra from the taxes and no equalization of the means of livelihood is achieved. The only group that benefits from this system are a small number of crippled people.

Thus, the wealthy classes still keep the bulk of their wealth and accumulate it while the poorer classes retain what they had before and nothing is added to it. The plan devised by `Abdu’l-Bahā does not help in the flow of wealth from the wealthy to the poor and no equalization is achieved. It may sound interesting on paper, but in action achieves nothing novel. It resembles the tax systems employed in all governments.

3. Huqūq Allah

Huqūq Allah or God’s Share, is a form of tax Baha’is must pay to the Universal House of Justice. When a Baha’i person’s wealth exceeds the price of nineteen mithqāls of gold, 19 percent of the wealth must be handed over to the UHJ.

Refer: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Ganjīniy-i ḥudūd wa aḥkām, chap. 9, pp. 94 & 101.

This tax is then used by the UHJ in whatever affairs they deem appropriate and is in no way guaranteed to be used for the equalization of the means of livelihood.

4. Zakāt tax

“We ordered that the zakāt be paid as has been revealed in the Quran.”

Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Ganjīniy-i ḥudūd wa aḥkām, chap. 12, p. 149.

 

As we can see, the Baha’i system proposed for the equalization of the means of livelihood is based on systems that were already implemented in government taxing systems or have been borrowed from Islamic Sharia. The irony is that the proposed system has a minimal effect on the Equalization of the Means of Livelihood for All Humanity, for wealth is not redistributed among the needy in a manner which helps close the gap between the rich and the poor, rather, it is merely a method for taxing the people of society.

It is up to you to draw your own conclusions!

Courtesy: Twelve Principles – A Comprehensive Investigation on the Bahai Teachings

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