A brief summary
of the beliefs, practices, aims and history
of the Bahá'í Faith
An unknowable essence responsible for all creation, referred to by human beings as God, Allah, Jaweh, Brahma, Bagwan, the Great Spirit and many other names.
MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD
Creations of God embodying the characteristics and forms of human beings on the one hand and, on the other hand, manifesting perfectly the attributes of God such as love, unity, justice. They have appeared periodically throughout human history with the purpose of educating humankind on both individual and collective levels. History has recorded their names and their influence on human civilisation through their founding of the great religions of the world.
Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, The Báb, Bahá'u'lláh. (graphic)
Creations of God embodying all the attributes of physical creation but being in essence spiritual in nature. Their purpose is to develop their spiritual natures through their interaction with each other and with the physical world in which they find themselves in. After death their spiritual identity continues to exist and progress throughout the limitless worlds of God. It is only in their physical existence that they can exercise choice and thereby have control over their spiritual progress.
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith and the most recent Manifestation of God, taught that the human race is standing on the threshold of its collective maturity, about to embark on an era of unity, justice and peace on a global scale. The previous religions have been essential, progressive stages in the unfoldment of this process. Bahá'ís are contributing to this process by personally internalising, putting into practice and disseminating principles such as:
the unity of the human race
the eradication of all forms of prejudice
the equality of men and women
elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
the recognition of the essential unity of religions
harmony between science and religion - the two most powerful sources of human knowledge
the application of spiritual principles to economic considerations
a universal auxiliary language
Daily obligatory prayers and the daily reading of Bahá'í scripture; a period of fasting once a year; abstaining from mind-altering drugs including alcohol except for medicinal purposes; monogamous marriage; chastity; endeavouring to apply Bahá'í principles in their everyday lives, teaching others about the Bahá'í Faith.
Developing Bahá'í institutions based on principles of cooperation and consultation providing models for all levels of human interaction; disseminating these principles; education of future generations; social and economic development based on these principles wherever the opportunities arise.
The Bahá'í era is dated from 1844 with the declaration of The Báb (the Gate), a Manifestation of God in His own right, in Shiraz, Persia (now Iran). The Báb's mission was to prepare for the coming of 'Him Whom God will make manifest', a great teacher who would usher in an era of peace and justice for the world. After a short and turbulent six years which saw the full weight of ecclesiastical and secular power thrown against Him and His followers, the Báb was executed by firing squad in Tabriz in 1850.
Following the Báb's execution, Mirza Husayn Ali who became known as Bahá'u'lláh (the Glory of God) declared Himself to be the one whom the Báb had anticipated. There followed for Bahá'u'lláh 40 years of imprisonment, banishment, torture and exile as He and His family and a group of followers were shunted across the Ottoman Empire, finally ending up in the prison city of Akká (Acre) in Palestine where He passed away in 1892.
During those 40 years Bahá'u'lláh wrote over 100 volumes expounding His blueprint for the human race. He wrote personally to the kings and rulers of the world's most powerful countries at the time exhorting them to dedicate themselves to the betterment of their people rather than engaging in wars and empire building. They all arrogantly ignored His appeals with the exception of Queen Victoria who is reputed to have said, "If this is of God, it will endure." She was the only monarch to have a long and fruitful reign, all the others, as Bahá'u'lláh predicted, ended their lives in ignominy.
After Bahá'u'lláh's passing. His mantle was taken up by His eldest son 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of Bahá,) who Bahá'u'lláh had appointed as His successor and the interpreter of His teachings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá took His father's teachings to the West, visiting, among other places, Paris, London, Edinburgh, New York and Chicago where he addressed many public gatherings.
'Abdu'l-Bahá passed away in 1921 after being knighted by the British government for his humanitarian work in Palestine during World War 1, and the leadership of the Bahá'í Faith passed to his grandson Shoghi Effendi who guided the development and spread of the Faith throughout the world until his own passing in 1957.
The present leadership of the Bahá'í Faith is in the hands of a nine-member body known as the Universal House of Justice (the concept of which was established by Bahá'u'lláh Himself) which was first elected in 1963 and is headquartered in Haifa, Israel, the location of the resting places of the remains of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
The Bahá'í Faith today is established in 232 countries and 116,000 localities and the membership numbers some 5-6 million.
The virulent persecution which accompanied its birth in Persia has continued sporadically to this very day in Iran where the Bahá'í Faith is the largest religious minority. Bahá'ís are forbidden to practice their religion, they are excluded from formal education and employment and many have had to endure unjustified imprisonment. Bahá'ís have been executed over the years, some as recently as in 1998, for refusing to recant their Faith.
For more detailed information about the teachings and history of the Bahá'í Faith click on the following links:
Bahá'í World Centre site
The Bahá'ís' Magazine