The passing of Baha'u'llah ended a period of nearly 50 years of continuous and progressive revelation as the twin prophets unveiled to mankind a priceless heritage of hundreds of tablets, books, poems, treatises and commentaries. Following this period (from 1844-1892) came the incomparable ministry of Abdu'l-Baha, styled by Baha'u'llah "the Master". His interpretations and explanations unfolded further to the world the endless gifts of an unprecedented dispensation. The passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha was followed by the ministry of Shoghi Effendi, who further unfolded the implications of Baha'u'llah's anticipated World Order. A radical order in which Justice was to be made the purpose and scope of collective power. This later period was the period of interpretation, not revelation. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that the "day will not be followed by night". Now that the administrative order has been established, divine authority has carried forward, but not the sphere of interpretation. As explained by Shoghi Effend: “...it is made indubitably clear and evident that the Guardian of the Faith has been made the Interpreter of the Word and that the Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating on matters not expressly revealed in the teachings. The interpretation of the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is as authoritative and binding as the enactments of the International House of Justice, whose exclusive right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Bahá’u’lláh has not expressly revealed.”
Bahá'í interpretive texts are writings by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi that elucidate and explain the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, ensuring the continuity of divine guidance post-revelation.
Within the Bahá'í Faith, the Guardian, initially Shoghi Effendi, held exclusive authority to interpret the sacred writings, a role that does not continue after his passing.
Interpretive texts build upon the foundational principles outlined in the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh by providing clarity and expanded understanding but do not constitute a continuation of revelation itself.
Yes, the interpretations provided by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are considered infallible and authoritative within the Bahá’í Faith.
Interpretive texts are crucial for maintaining the integrity and uniformity of Bahá'í teachings, guiding believers in the application of principles for personal growth and community building.
No, interpretive texts address many spiritual and administrative aspects but do not legislate; this task is reserved for the Universal House of Justice on matters not explicitly covered in scripture.
Following Shoghi Effendi's passing, the Universal House of Justice resolves disputes on legislative matters, while authoritative interpretations by the Guardian remain binding.
While personal understanding is encouraged, Bahá'ís cannot offer official interpretations of the Bahá'í writings; this was the exclusive domain of the Guardian.