The Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í Faith is the second most widespread of the world's independent religions. Our Faith is established in over 230 countries and territories - we come from over 2100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups and number nearly six million members. Bahá'ís believe in the oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and in the oneness of humankind.
The founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá'ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.
The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá'u'lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.
Basic Baha'i Principles
Bahá'u'lláh taught that there is one God whose successive revelations of His will to humanity have been the chief civilizing force in history. The agents of this process have been the Divine Messengers whom people have seen chiefly as the founders of separate religious systems but whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity.
Humanity is now coming of age. It is this that makes possible the unification of the human family and the building of a peaceful, global society. Among the principles which the Baha'i Faith promotes as vital to the achievement of this goal are:
- the abandonment of all forms of prejudice
- assurance to women of full equality of opportunity with men
- recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth
- the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth
- the realization of universal education
- the responsibility of each person to independently search for truth
- the establishment of a global commonwealth of nations
- recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge
Baha'u'llah - God's Messenger For This Day
Bahá'u'lláh is the Messenger of God for all of humanity in this Day. The corner-stone of His Teachings is the establishment of the spiritual unity of humanity. He has revealed a system of Laws and Ordinances to guide humanity to its spiritual maturity. He teaches that Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad are all Divine Messengers progressively revealing God's Divine Plan to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Bahá’u’lláh was born in Persia, (modern day Iran), in 1817. His father was a government minister. In His youth, Bahá’u’lláh was known as the “father of the poor” for his deeds of kindness. From early age he displayed marvelous faculties of intellect. Although passionately interested in social justice, he was not attracted to political life. He chose not to follow in his father’s footsteps, and turned down offers to serve in the government.
The Announcement of the Coming of the Promised One
As a young man, Bahá'u'lláh became a follower of the Báb. The Báb, which means "Gate" in Arabic, was the Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh, and Bahá'ís believe the Báb is an independent Messenger of God. The Báb announced on May 23, 1844 that His mission was to prepare humanity for the imminent advent of a Prophet greater than Himself, Who would fulfill the prophecies of past religions regarding the establishment of God's Kingdom on Earth.
Bahá’u’lláh and the other followers of the Báb were persecuted for their beliefs because the priests and rulers of Persia wrongly charged them as heretics.
In 1852, in Tehran, Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned in the Black Pit (Siyáh-Chál), an underground dungeon. It was there, under “the galling weight of the chains” and oppressed by “the stench-filled air,” that He received a revelation from God that He was the Promised One foretold by the Báb and all the Manifestations of God who had come before him. He describes the experience in these words:
"I heard a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My head...I beheld a Maiden--the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of My Lord...Pointing with her finger unto My head, she addressed all who are in heaven and all who are on earth, saying, ‘By God! This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you, could ye but understand."
Forty Years of Exile and Imprisonment
Bahá’u’lláh was released from prison after four months and exiled to Baghdad. There, in 1863, Bahá'u'lláh openly declared His mission as a Messenger of God. However, because of continuing opposition by the Iranian government and religious authorities, Bahá'u'lláh spent the remaining forty years of His life in exile and imprisonment.
Those forty years saw an outpouring of spiritual revelation unprecedented in religious history. Hundreds of books, tablets and letters were revealed, which today are the sacred scripture of the Bahá’í Faith. In these writings He presented a blueprint for the reconstruction of human society at all levels and for the spiritual regeneration of the human race. God has "the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body," wrote Bahá'u'lláh, "All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization."
Exile to the Holy Land
The first years of exile were spent in Baghdad, followed by periods in Istanbul and Adrianople (modern Edirne). In 1868 He was exiled to Akká, a prison city in the Ottoman province (now Israel). He lived there until His death in 1892. Despite the fierce opposition of the priests and rulers of Persia and the Ottoman Empire, and their persecution of his followers, Bahá’u’lláh fearlessly announced his mission and directed his followers to carry his teachings throughout the world. He also sent letters from prison to the kings and rulers of the day, informing them of his mission and calling on them to band together in the pursuit of justice and peace.
Bahá’u’lláh Sacrificed Wealth and Power
Bahá’u’lláh never rebelled against His oppressors. He endured sacrifice and imprisonment in order to raise the standard of a new era of unity and justice for humankind. About his purpose, he said:
“By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Whoso followeth His Lord, will renounce the world and all that is therein.”
Bahá’u’lláh Suffered for the Sake of Humanity
Here, in His own words, is Bahá’u’lláh’s statement of the redeeming power of His life of persecution and sacrifice, which all the Manifestations of God before Him endured as well:
“The Ancient Beauty (Bahá'u'lláh) hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness. This is the mercy of your Lord, the Compassionate, the Most Merciful. We have accepted to be abased, O believers in the Unity of God, that ye may be exalted, and have suffered manifold afflictions, that ye might prosper and flourish. He Who hath come to build anew the whole world, behold, how they...have forced Him to dwell within the most desolate of cities!”
* For more information please visit the official web site of the Bahá'í Faith at www.bahai.org. Try these sites as well for other information and news from around the Bahá'í world: