There are a number of significant limits on the status of women in Bahá'u'lláh's teachings.

Spiritual Rights and Obligations

One glaring shortcoming of the Bahá'í Faith with respect to the spiritual standing of women is the exemption of women from the ordinance of pilgrimage. There is no such exemption in Islám. If pilgrimage is so important for men that they must sometimes save for decades to go on pilgrimage, why are women exempted wholesale? Because travel is such a hardship for them? Do they bleed their entire lives? Are there no measures they can take even when they are in their courses? Bahá'u'lláh must have considered pilgrimage less important for women than Muhammad did.

Perhaps one of Bahá'u'lláh's wives had some messy menstruations, or perhaps some grizzly bouts with PMS. Perhaps Bahá'u'lláh had an issue with blood.

Marriage and Inheritance

The passages of the Aqdas on marriage ¶63-70 are noticeably gender-biased. Men are permitted to have two wives ¶63 (`Abdu'l-Bahá later abrogated this allowance of bigamy). Men are presumed to be the sole bread winners, so no consideration is given to the likelihood that a woman might work ¶67. Whereas adultery is considered to be an offense that men and women can commit ¶49, divorce appears to be justifiable by female adultery only, for, in keeping with Islamic tradition, divorce is not a two-way street: the man divorces the wife; not the other way around. ¶68.

Likewise, it is forbidden for a man to marry his stepmother. Given that the stepmother is most likely older than the man, should not this be worded as a prohibition against a woman marrying her stepson? It is remarkable how often the man is the subject and women the object in Bahá'u'lláh's writings.

Dowries are set to a couple ounces of gold for city urban Bahá'ís and a couple ounces of silver for rural Bahá'ís. ¶66 Silver is, of course, worth much less than gold. This system favors rural residents whether they are rich or poor, but more importantly, why even bother with such detail? Why require dowries in a modern age in which wives are presumably no longer possessions?

Bahá'u'lláh's rules for inheritance clearly favor men over women. ¶20–29 Wives are only allowed to inherit property that is explicitly given to them, and provable as such. The wives (one or two) of a man must split 15% of their deceased husband's estate (what remains after burial, Huquq, Zakat, and debts). The only defense Bahá'ís have for this is that Bahá'u'lláh's rules are merely a default to be used when Bahá'ís don't leave a will (which would be illegal). Is this to suggest that Bahá'u'lláh's inheritance rules are not to be used, even as a model? Of course they are to be used! If failing to leave a will is forbidden, why else would Bahá'u'lláh have specified these allotments? To punish the widows for their husband's intestacy?

Important Topics Avoided

It seems a bit peculiar that, having dealt with incidental topics in great detail, Bahá'u'lláh found his way to sidestep some important issues, such as female genital mutilation, a common practice in the Muslim world, upheld by some Hadith (Muslim traditions). Bahá'u'lláh must have been aware of the practice, yet he did not seem to believe it was an issue deserving of his attention.

The Aqdas does not address sexual crimes such as incest, molestation, and rape. These heinous offenses may not have been considered as serious from Bahá'u'lláh's Islamic perspective, but we know the cutting of a man's hair and beard was important enough to be addressed in the Aqdas.

Education of Women

"The acknowledgement of the mother being the teacher of children" is just a euphamism for a law that works to keep women out of professional careers. The kind of education that a woman is given priority for is the kind of education that is useful for teaching children, not an education that would necessarily press the frontiers of her personal knowledge. You're really living in the days of Muhammad with such a law, saying that you're exalting women by keeping them in their proper place.

Now the world of women should be a spiritual world, not a political one, so that it will be radiant. The women of other nations are all immersed in political matters. Of what benefit is this, and what fruit doth it yield?

`Abdu'l-Bahá, cited in Women, Compiled by the UHJ Research Department

The handmaidens of God and the bondsmaids in His divine Court should reveal such attributes and attitudes amongst the women of the world as would cause them to stand out and achieve renown in the circles of women. That is, they should associate with them with supreme chastity and steadfast decency, with unshakeable faith, articulate speech, an eloquent tongue, irrefutable testimony and high resolve. Beseech God that thou mayest attain unto all these bounties.

`Abdu'l-Bahá, cited in Women, Compiled by the UHJ Research Department

Clearly, `Abdu'l-Bahá was an advocate for the equality of women to a degree that his father, a polygamist and in most respects a traditional Shi'i Muslim, could never attain. Still, he exhibited doubts about the place of women in politics. It should be no surprise, therefore, that he saw no place for them in the Guardianship or the Universal House of Justice.

The exclusion of women from the UHJ is delt with in another essay.