In this verse we just highlight the apparent differences between the various translations available at bahai-library.com
Authorized translation: Should the deceased leave no offspring, their share shall revert to the House of Justice, to be expended by the Trustees of the All-Merciful on the orphaned and widowed, and on whatsoever will bring benefit to the generality of the people.
Haddad translation: If anyone dies without heirs, the house of justice has the right to the property and it should be expended by the house, bring the trustees of the merciful – for the widows and orphans, and for any purpose that may result in the welfare of the commonwealth.
Earl E. Elder translation: Whoever dies having no offspring, his rights return to the House of Justice (bayt al-‘adl) in order that the Stewards of the Merciful (umana’ al-rahman) may spend it on orphans and widows, and on what benefits the multitude of people.
Critique 1 : Since this verse deals with inheritance there should be complete clarity about those for whom the right of inheritance is being established.
The older Haddad translation says: If anyone dies without heirs…
While the latter Earl E. Elder and the authorised translations use the words offspring instead of heirs.
This can have differing implications. Offspring refer to the children of the deceased. The word Heir would additionally include spouses, parents and even siblings. Now since the second part of the verse establishes the right of “The House of Justice” on the property it would imply the following:
If the earlier Haddad translation is followed then the right of “The House of Justice” would be established if a deceased is not survived by any heir. That is, he/she neither is survived by an offspring nor by any spouse nor a parent and nor a sibling.
But if the later translations are followed then the right of “The House of Justice” is very easily established as the negation is only for offspring. So even if the parents, spouses and siblings of the deceased are present the “House of Justice” can throw them out and occupy the premises of the deceased.
Whether the later translations are purposely distorted to make the way for the “House of Justice” to annex properties is thus a valid doubt and question.
Even the original Arabic has not been updated on the website so that by referring to the original one may clarify the doubts. (It is declared on the website that that the Arabic text will be posted and entered in 1999 or 2000. We have accessed the website in 2019 and are still waiting for our efficient Baha’i workers to update their website)
Also it would be interesting if the Baha’is would declare what happened to the inheritance of Shogie Affandi who unfortunately died without an offspring thus creating a vertical split amongst the Baha’is.
The succeeding verses attempt to explain these contradictions on the issue of ownership and annexation by the house of Justice. Verse 22 lays down that if a deceased leaves only offspring but none of the other category of heirs then his offspring will get only two-third of his property and the house of justice the balance one-third. And in case he leaves no children but has other heirs then verse 23 lays down that these other heirs will get only two-third of his property and the house of justice the balance one-third. Thus, the house of Justice will have no share only if a deceased has both the offspring as well as other relatives. Otherwise the House of Justice is a sure winner in annexing at least one third of the property. And it goes without saying that if there are neither offspring nor any other relatives then verse 24 establishes the sole right of the house of justice on the entire property.
Critique 2: Three uses of this annexed property are also prescribed in this verse. There is no ambiguity about using this for widows and orphans. However, the third use can be open to dispute wherein it would be possible for office bearers in the Baha’i hierarchy to use such premises for their personal use. Since they are working for “the cause”, to ensure their dedicated services to the common good they can sanction the use of such premises for themselves. (After of course evicting the spouses, parents and siblings of the deceased from the house.)