The Baha’i Faith is a monotheistic religion that emerged in the nineteenth century. It puts forward that many major religions in the world today are part of a progressive revelation from God, and it considers such diverse figures as Krishna, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammad to be divine messengers sent by God to guide the world’s spiritual development.
Baha’is emphasize unity among all of mankind and strive for a united world society. In working toward this goal, the Baha’is vigorously engage in social programs and education that promote racial and gender equality, religious tolerance, environmental responsibility, and improved economies for those in need.
Baha’is consider their faith to be separate and independent from other faiths, although its most prominent influence is Shi’a Islam.
OriginsSiyyid Ali-Muhammad set down the foundations of the Baha’i Faith in 1844 by proclaiming himself as a messenger of God and predicting the arrival of a greater messenger. He became known as the Bab, which is Arabic for "Gate." The Bab’s teachings were considered heretical in Islamic Persia (Islam specifically teaches that Mohammad is both the greatest and the last of God’s messengers), and he was executed in 1850.
In 1852, a Babi follower named Mirza Husayn Ali, also known as Baha'u'llah ("The Glory of God"), had a revelation while in prison that he was the foretold messenger. It is not until 1863, however, that he publicly announces this fact and takes control of the movement, which gains its present name, the Baha’i Faith.
After the passing of Baha'u'llah, his son Abdu'l-Baha took control of the faith as infallible interpreter of his father's writings. Abdu'l-Baha was succeeded by his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, the last of the individual leaders. Today, central authority rests in an assembly known as the Universal House of Justice.
Basic BeliefsA Single, All-Powerful, Indivisible God
The Baha’i Faith is monotheistic. There is a single, limitless deity who knows all and is in all places. He is so great that no single person or religion can fully understand him, which is why messengers have revealed varying aspects of his totality through the ages and why different religions have differing ideas about him.
God has no form, as defining a form for him would limit him. Baha’is recognize anthropomorphic descriptions and images of God to be people’s way of attempting to relate to and understand an entity ultimately beyond full human comprehension.
God is also indivisible. The Christian concept of the trinity is considered either metaphorical or erroneous. Polytheism is contrary to the Baha’i Faith, and it is generally accepted that no messengers taught polytheism.
Manifestations of God
God manifests himself through his messengers, who possess both mortal and divine qualities, although they are not identical to God nor considered a portion of God. Some Baha’is compare the Manifestations of God to mirrors, reflecting the light of God onto the world. God has sent many messengers in a system of evolving revelation to mankind, each appropriate for the specific time and place.
Intrinsic Equal Value Of All Human Life
God created all humans, so all should be equally valued. Baha’is are strong supporters of equal treatment for women and minorities. The unification of humankind is considered a primary goal to Baha’is.
Importance of Education
Bahai’s strive toward a goal of universal education in both religious and secular matters. Positively serving humanity is considered a duty for everyone, and education is the best path for preparing people to better society.
Narrowing The Gap Between Rich And Poor
The widening gulf between the extremes of wealth and poverty is of great concern to Baha’is. Baha’i groups provide care for the less fortunate in a number of ways, including charity, education, and activism.
Holidays and CelebrationsThe Baha’i calendar starts at sunset on March 20 in order to roughly correspond with the spring equinox.. This day is referred to as Naw-Ruz, the same as for Zoroastrians, another religion originating in Persia. Naw-Ruz is one of eleven holy days, the others being:
- First day of Ridvan, April 21 - Ridvan celebrates Baha'u'llah’s announcement of revelation
- Ninth day of Ridvan, April 29
- Twelfth day of Ridvan, May 2
- Declaration of the Bab, May 23 – Celebrating the day of the Bab’s revelation
- Ascension of Baha'u'llah, May 29
- Martyrdom of the Bab, July 9
- Birth of the Bab, October 20
- Birth of Baha'u'llah, November 12
- Day of the Covenant, November 26 - Celebrating Baha'u'llah’s son’s, Abdu’l-Baha, ascension to the head of the Baha’i Faith
- Ascension of Abdu'l-Baha, November 28 – Recognizing the day of Abdu’l-Baha’s death