Wednesday, January 20, 2010

19 Mithqals of Gold

I don't know how many times I've seen that phrase in my readings of the Writings: 19 Mithqals of gold.

What is it?  Fortunately, a simple answer can be found in the back of the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

A "mithqal" is a unit of measurement equal to 19 nakhuds (according to the Bayan, as opposed to the 24 nakhuds it traditionally is).  Does that make it easier?  No?  Oh, sorry.  OK, 19 mithqals is pretty much equal to 69.192 grams, or 2.22456 troy ounces.  Almost 2.25 ounces.

There you have it.  A simple, mathematical definition.

But why is this important?

Baha'u'llah, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, says that when our wealth, or our money beyond our necessary expenses, totals at least 19 mithqals of gold, we are to pay the Right of God on it.  The exact words are, "whenever one owneth 19 mithqals of gold, or acquireth possessions attaining this value, after having deducted therefrom the yearly expenses, the Huquq becometh applicable and its payment is obligatory".

This is where many of us have come into contact with the phrase "19 mithqals of gold", but it is not the only time we see it in the Writings.

Did you know that there is another law, which is not yet applicable, regarding that sum?  It is the dowry (city-dwellers are supposed to pay a gold 19 mithqal dowry, but country-dwellers get away with silver).  Unlike some dowries, the Baha'i dowry is paid by the husband to the wife.  Although this Law is not yet applicable, it does seem to make sense as, in many cultures today, the man is still the main income earner in the family (mine being one of the odd exceptions).  As this sum belongs to the wife, it seems to act as a form of life insurance in case anything should happen to the husband.  It would give her a bit of a cushion to help survive until she can earn an income of her own.

But there is one other time we find this phrase in the Writings.  Again in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, we find the following: Ye have been forbidden in the Book of God to engage in contention and conflict, to strike another, or to commit similar acts whereby hearts and souls may be saddened. A fine of nineteen mithqals of gold had formerly been prescribed by Him Who is the Lord of all mankind for anyone who was the cause of sadness to another; in this Dispensation, however, He hath absolved you thereof and exhorteth you to show forth righteousness and piety.

Thank God that this has been "absolved".  2.25 ounces of gold for making someone sad?  I would be so far in debt that it wouldn't be funny.  In fact, most of us, I would venture to say, would have a similar problem.  There would be no financial crisis, for none of us would have any money left.  Oh, except the happy ones.  Hmm.  Would stand-up comics make a fortune in that situation?  All I can say is that I'm so glad this particular law has been absolved.  There's hope for me yet.

But an fun image does come to mind with this.  I imagine us all having this little lump of gold, 2.25 ounces worth, that we all give back and forth whenever we make each other sad.  It would be like the fruitcake of the Baha'i Dispensation.  You never actually use it for anything else.  It just gets passed along when you need to pay.  After all, no one ever eats those fruitcakes they're given for Christmas.  They just give them as a gift the following year.  This is just the high end version of it.

Anyways, back to the main topic.  Let me just see if I have this right.

Before the Kitab-i-Aqdas was written, you had to give someone 2.25 ounces of gold if you caused sadness to them?  And now, if you are a man, you have to pay a woman 2.25 ounces of gold if you want to marry her?  I'm sure this is just a coincidence.

Fortunately, my wife agrees with me.  We're certain there is no connection between the two.

But what about the Right of God, the Huququ'llah?   Does the woman have to pay the Right of God on the dowry?  Or does the man have to pay it before he can pay her dowry?

I won't even go into the concept that "certain possessions are exempt", for a spouse is certainly not a "possession" (don't even think about 'necessary furnishing').  But it does raise an interesting question.  Is the Right of God applicable on the dowry, or is it considered a necessary saving for an emergency?

Or maybe, just maybe, the idea of a fruitcake can be applicable to me when I ask these types of questions.


  1. Oh, I agree entirely with your conclusion...

  2. Cool. So how much is an oz of gold worth?

    1. You can always check it here

  3. She pays, but "after having deducted therefrom the yearly expenses"... her expenses... so...

  4. The Dowry is 95 mithqals.

  5. Hi Anon. Thanks for the comment. I double-checked, for I don't trust my memory. Here is the quote.

    "No marriage may be contracted without payment
    of a dowry, which hath been fixed for city-dwellers at nineteen mithqals of pure gold, and for village-dwellers at the same amount in silver. Whoso wisheth to increase this sum, it is forbidden him to exceed the limit of ninety-five mithqals."

    The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 42

    So we are both correct. It is at least 19, and 95 is the upper limit.

    Thanks again.


  6. There's a good video called: How Much is a Mithqal? which shows how to calculate the immediate price of gold or silver conversion:

  7. Just found an even better one!

    Bahá'í Mithqal Calculator:

  8. haha very funny, thanks for the post! :D

  9. hilarious--love your light-hearted and informative approach :)

  10. hilarious! that fruitcake idea is so funny! It might be interesting to find a beautiful pebble that weighs about 2 oz and use it a memory stone... just as a little reminder to work on our PKR hearts=Pure, Kindly and Radiant (per Rainn Wilson)

  11. Hello Mead, I enjoyed reading this article. I like how you have brought up the subject in a manner that encourages us to consult and try to understand it.