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What is the Baha’i Faith?
The Baha’i Faith, the world’s newest independent global belief system, teaches the oneness of God, the unity of humanity and the essential harmony of religion.
Baha’is believe in peace, justice, love, altruism and unity. The Baha’i teachings promote the agreement of science and religion, the equality of the sexes and the elimination of all prejudice and racism.
Just about anywhere you go on the planet, you’ll find Baha’is—the Baha’i Faith is the world’s second-most widespread religion after Christianity, spanning the globe and working to unite it. Baha’is have no clergy or churches, gathering together in democratically-led communities and welcoming everyone.
The millions of Baha’is in the world come from every ethnicity, nationality, tribe, age, racial group, religious background and economic and social class. Gentle, peaceful, warm and welcoming, diverse Baha’i communities exist just about everywhere. Baha’is accept the validity of each of the founders and prophets of the major world religions, and believe in progressive revelation, the unique Baha’i principle that views every great Faith as a link in a single spiritual system progressively revealed by God to humanity.
Who is Baha’u’llah?
We spend our lives trying to unlock the mystery of the universe, but there was a Turkish prisoner, Baha’u’llah, in Akka, Palestine who had the key. – Leo Tolstoy
The Baha’i Faith is consolation for humanity. – Mahatma Gandhi
The essence of Baha’u’llah’s Teaching is all-embracing love, for love includeth every excellence of humankind. It causeth every soul to go forward. It bestoweth on each one, for a heritage, immortal life. Erelong shalt thou bear witness that His celestial Teachings, the very glory of reality itself, shall light up the skies of the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 66.
Baha’is follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah, who proclaimed the Baha’i Faith during the middle of the 19th Century, and who taught world peace, the oneness of all humanity and the essential unity of all religions. Born Mirza Husayn Ali in Tehran, Persia in 1817, Baha’u’llah was known early in his adult life as “the father of the poor” for his selfless work assisting the destitute and homeless. In 1863, Baha’u’llah began openly teaching the Baha’i Faith, with its revolutionary messages of human unity, the oneness of all Faiths, the equality of men and women, the agreement of science and religion and the establishment of a global system of governance.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, whose title means “The Glory of God,” is the latest prophet to found a major world religion and usher in a new age of human development:
…in the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all. Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men, and have evinced such power as is born of God and such might as only the Eternal can reveal. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 67-68.
After the proclamation of his Faith, Baha’u’llah suffered forty years of exile, torture and imprisonment—all for announcing that a new revelation had been born. This great divine educator and messenger, despite the persecutions he bore, then wrote a series of epistles to the political and religious rulers of the world from his prison cell. Those letters, called the Tablets to the Kings, openly announced Baha’u’llah’s station and mission, and warned the world’s most prominent leaders that humanity faced disastrous consequences unless they laid down their weapons and convened to unite the world and end warfare.
Baha’u’llah called the entire world to collective action and to unity, and that call, Baha’is believe, has inaugurated a new age of spirituality, harmony and human maturation.
How Did Baha’i History Begin?
In a troubled time and place—Shiraz, Persia in 1844—a young merchant and mystic named Siyyid Ali Muhammad made a startling announcement: that he brought the world a new message from God.
Called The Bab (pronounced bob), which means “The Gate,” this new prophet created a furor in Persian society with his revolutionary teachings—spiritual and moral transformation, women’s emancipation and the raising up of the poor. The Bab also proclaimed that he had come to herald the birth of a new, universal revelation, one greater than his own, and to prepare the way for “He whom God shall make manifest”—the Promised One of all ages. The Babi Faith spread quickly, electrifying the masses and provoking severe reactions from the government and the clergy. Tens of thousands of Babis, including the Bab himself, were tortured, massacred and publicly executed for their beliefs.
After the Bab’s execution in 1850, Baha’u’llah gradually assumed the leadership of the Babis. In prison in 1852, Baha’u’llah received the revelation that inspired the Baha’i Faith, and fulfilled the prophecies and promises of the Bab.
The Baha’i Faith now counts millions of followers across every region, continent and nation of the world. Baha’u’llah’s teachings emphasize justice, equality and religious unity, so even today many Baha’is in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries still face persecution for their beliefs.
Baha’u’llah’s exiles from Persia to the Ottoman Empire
Baha’u’llah suffered a life of torture and deprivation in order to bring the world a new set of spiritual teachings. Persecuted relentlessly, he still persevered in delivering that message, which has now begun to deeply affect and alter humanity’s future.
Who are the Baha’is?
The millions of Baha’is in the world come from every ethnicity, nationality, tribe, age, racial group, religious background and economic and social class. Gentle, peaceful, warm and welcoming, Baha’i communities exist just about everywhere. Baha’is accept the validity of each of the founders and prophets of the major world religions, and believe in progressive revelation, the unique Baha’i principle that views every great Faith as a link in a single spiritual system progressively revealed by God to humanity.
The Main Baha’i Teachings
Essentially a mystical Faith, the Baha’i teachings focus on the soul’s relationship with the eternal, unknowable essence of God, and recommend daily prayer and meditation to everyone. Baha’is believe that the human spirit lives eternally, and so endeavor to illumine their souls with spiritual attributes—kindness, generosity, integrity, truthfulness, humility and selfless service to others.
Also a practical Faith, the primary Baha’i principles advocate international unity, the complete cessation of all warfare, universal compulsory education for every child, a spiritual solution to the extremes of wealth and poverty, an end to religious fundamentalism and division, and a unified global response to oppression, materialism, and the planet’s mounting environmental crisis.
Baha’is believe in the independent investigation of reality, and encourage everyone to question dogma, tradition and superstition by embarking on a personal search to discover the truth. The Baha’i Faith has no clergy. Instead, a distinctive system of democratically-elected councils at the local, national and international levels administer and guide Baha’i communities. This unprecedented administrative order, fundamentally different from any other system of religious or political authority, has now become the first functioning system of democratic global governance, vesting power and initiative in the entire body of the believers worldwide.
The Baha’i writings say that religion must be the source of unity and fellowship in the world—but if it produces enmity, hatred and bigotry, the absence of religion would be preferable.