Friday, February 4, 2011

Where There's a Will...

So there I am, sitting down, getting ready to write an article for this blog when I suddenly realize that I have no clue what to write about. Nada. Zip. Nothing.

"But I have to write something", I tell myself. "I can't just not write and let another day go without saying something about the Faith." In fact, I feel that I've been slacking here for a bit, dear Reader. I try to publish at least 3 or 4 articles a week, and so far I have only 19 articles this year. That's just over 1 every other day. Not acceptable, in my opinion.

But what can I do? I don't want to write tripe just for the sake of writing. No. I want to write something that feels important to me, or at least interesting. I want to make my time well spent, do something worth doing.

And so I went to the bookshelf and grabbed a copy of "The Kitab-i-Aqdas". I mean, what better book is there to turn to when you need some inspiration. And what do I find? Well, I could just tell you, but I want to carry you through the thought process that led me here.

I started at the beginning, which usually seems like a good place to begin. (Except in the movie Memento, where you actually end there. Great movie, if you haven't seen it. Well, it's a great movie even if you have seen it.)

You may have heard me talk about giving the first five paragraphs of this Most Holy Book to a number of ministers and how they all agreed that this is exactly what they'd been trying to say for years. Recognition, obedience, the importance of the commandments of God, and so on. It's wonderful stuff. I really can't say too much about it.

Then in paragraph 6, He talks about the obligatory prayer. Then in paragraph 7, He reminds us that everything comes from God, and that the Laws are like the sun. In other words, pray, and be content with God's will.

Then follows a number of other paragraphs about prayer and fasting, with the occasional reminder of the importance of following the Laws, as well as some of the benefits that can be accrued from them. Lots of stuff about prayer and fasting.

Then comes paragraph 19, one of my favorites because of the sheer oddness of what it contains. No murder, adultery, backbiting or calumny. I wrote about this paragraph here, so I won't repeat myself now.

Finally, I found myself at paragraph 20, which begins 9 paragraphs about having a will.

This is when I realized that my own will is quite out of date. (By the way, the next paragraph, 29, says "These, verily, are the Laws of God; transgress them not at the prompting of your base and selfish desires. Observe ye the injunctions laid upon you by Him Who is the Dawning-place of Utterance." So I guess I better get it updated fast.)

And so, dear Reader, all of this to say that today I want to look at what Baha'u'llah says about having a will. From what I understand, and this is, of course, only my own understanding, we can make our will any way we want, leaving whatever we want to whomever we want. But here, in the Most Holy Book, Baha'u'llah gives us a lot of guidance, and I, for one, want to be a bit more familiar with it than I currently am.

The first thing to be aware of is at the very end of this section: "Division of the estate should take place only after the Huququ'lláh hath been paid, any debts have been settled, the expenses of the funeral and burial defrayed, and such provision made that the deceased may be carried to his resting-place with dignity and honour." Well, that's relatively easy. Keep some records of your payment to the Right of God, and set up the rest ahead of time. No problem.

The next thing for me to look at is the money involved. When I read the first paragraph about this, it seems like I should divide my estate into 2430 parts. It may seem like a weird number, but as this is divisible by so many numbers, it actually make a lot of sense, from a mathematical standpoint.

Out of these, the breakdown is fairly simple:

Children - 450
Wife - 480
Father - 420
Mother - 360
Brothers - 300
Sisters - 240
Teachers - 180

At this point I could talk about the "injustice" of the women getting less than the men, but this is actually compensated for later by the responsibilities laid upon the men, and what they are bound to do in relation to the family. I also have to keep in mind that this is for the entire planet, and not just those of us in the West, or in those other parts of the world where gender equality is a closer reality. Finally, I have to remember that this is only a guideline in the case of there being no will, so I'm actually free to change the proportions, if I wish. Either way, when I look at the totality of this Book, as well as the rest of His Writings, and not just this one section, I see that there is actually a balance in it.

But what happens to those portions that are not divided due to there being nobody in a particular category?

Well, if there are no children, that 450 goes to the House of Justice for orphans and widows, and things that will benefit the generality of the people

If there are children, but nobody in any of the other categories, then 1620, or two-thirds, to the children.

If none of the above exist, then we look to nephews and nieces, which shall get the 1620 shares, regardless of whether they are on the brother or sister's side.

If there are no nephews or nieces, then we turn to the uncles and aunts, who shall receive the 1620 shares.

If there are no uncles or aunts, then we look to their children, or the first cousins, both male and female.

In all of the last cases, the House of Justice shall receive the remaining third, or 810 shares.

Failing all of this, if there are no surviving relatives closer than first cousins, then the whole estate reverts to the House of Justice.

It seems like He has it covered, for the most part.

But what about other scenarios? Baha'u'llah has many of these covered as well.

If a man passes away, and his son is pre-deceased but with children of his own, then the son's shares go on to the grandchildren. Presumably this also works for the daughters, as they both fall under the category of children.

Also, if any of these children are under the age of maturity, then the money is to be held in a reliable trust until they come of age. Not much different from what we see today, including the fact that the trustee is to be given a reasonable wage for his services.

Finally, there is one last point, in paragraph 25: "We have assigned the residence and personal clothing of the deceased to the male, not female, offspring, nor to the other heirs."

I won't profess to understand that one, but will say that in the case of there being no will, this makes it pretty easy and prevents any fighting about it. Now, I'm sure there is a greater wisdom in it, but I have no clue what it is. I never claimed to understand everything within the Faith, only that I believe Baha'u'llah's perspective is greater than my own limited one.

Also, this does encourage me to get my own will in order, just so that I can distribute my stuff a bit more to my own liking.

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