"Matters of State" or "administrative matters": the scope of the House of Justice

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In the 1978 translation of Tablets of Baha’u’llah by Habib Taherzadeh “with the assistance of a committee,” the eighth section of the Tablet of Ishraqaat says:

“This passage, now written by the Pen of Glory, is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book: The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people (‘amuur-e mellat). They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His countries.
O people of God! That which traineth the world is Justice, for it is upheld by two pillars, reward and punishment. These two pillars are the sources of life to the world. Inasmuch as for each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the House of Justice that the members thereof may act according to the needs and requirements of the time. They that, for the sake of God, arise to serve His Cause, are the recipients of divine inspiration from the unseen Kingdom. It is incumbent upon all to be obedient unto them. All matters of State (‘amuur-e siyaasiyyah) should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship (`ibaadaat) must be observed according to that which God hath revealed in His Book.” Tablets of Baha’u’llah 128-9, cf. Majmu cih az alwah-ye Jamal-e Aqdas-e Abha 75.

There is a previous translation by Ali Kuli Khan, made in 1906 or earlier,[2] in which the italicised passages read:

The affairs of the people are in charge of the men of the House of Justice of God … Administrative affairs are all in charge of the House of Justice, and devotional acts must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book.”

Ali Kuli Khan’s translation was included in the widely-used compilation of Bahai scriptures, Baha’i World Faith (p 200), and was therefore the text used in the English-speaking Bahai communities during the Guardian’s ministry and later, until Tablets of Baha’u’llah was published 1978. Both, successively, are officially endorsed translations, and it must be supposed that the change was regarded as an improvement. For various reasons it appears to me that Ali Kuli Khan’s reading is preferable.

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