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The Baha'i Faith

Since December 1983, Update's editors have been in correspondence with both the Baha'i Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel, and the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'is in Denmark to secure an article about their faith and current activities. What follows is their response, which outlines the religion's history, main tenets of belief, and certain key teachings from their teacher Baha'u'llah.


The first basis of belief in the Baha'i faith is that there is one God, the Lord of Creation, the All-Powerful, the Unknowable, who has always been made known to the creatures of his creation through a series of holy beings in human form: perfect men who have, from time to time, lived on the earth and taught men about God, shown them the spiritual path he wants them to tread, given them knowledge and laws to guide them. We know most of those holy beings in this day as the founders of the present world religions. Each of them lived among men at different times and each had such a powerful effect that his teachings spread over a wide area and influenced mankind for many centuries. Those holy ones--Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, to name those we are familiar with--were perfect souls who reflected to mankind all the qualities of God, just as, for example, a mirror can reflect the sun and we see the sun in that mirror.

Those holy souls, those manifestations of God, have all had two natures: their relationship with God and their function of bringing God's message to mankind; and their life on the earth as men, giving their teachings and showing, by the perfection of their lives, an example of the spiritual qualities towards which man can strive, even though he cannot achieve the perfection of a manifestation of God.

The message of the Baha'i faith is that a new revelation has been given to mankind. It has been brought by the coming of two messengers in close sequence. First came Ali Muhammad, a young man of Shiraz, Iran, who proclaimed in 1844 that he was the long-awaited Mahdi expected by the Sunni Muslims and also the return of the Twelfth Imam expected by the Shiahs. He is known as. The Bab,. or the Gate. He said he came to open the way for a further manifestation who would soon come with a greater message for the whole of mankind. He called on everyone not only to believe in him (the Bab), but to accept the greater messenger who would come after him.

The promised second messenger was Hussein Ali of Nur, a nobleman of northern Iran who became one of the Bab's most steadfast and devoted followers, suffering imprisonment and exile on that account. In 1863 he announced that he was the promised new manifestation of God, bringing the greater revelation foretold by the Bab. He is known to us as Baha'ullah, the Glory of God. It is through the power of the divine Spirit he brought to the world and the teachings he gave that the Baha'i faith has spread all over the earth, increasingly gaining adherents in every country.

Ali Muhammad, the herald of the Baha'i faith, was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1819. In 1844 he declared his mission to call men back to a renewed faith and love of God. He and his followers were immediately attacked and persecuted by the Muslim clergy and the government, since Muslims believed that there could be no further revelation after that of Muhammad. Many of the Bab's followers were killed, (often cruelly), their homes destroyed, their families scattered. There has been a sporadic pattern of persecution of the Baha'is in Iran even until the present day. The Bab himself was imprisoned and shot to death in Tabriz in 1850.

Baha'u'llah was by then one of the Bab's most devoted. Although the Bab did not name him to take charge of his suffering community of believers, he did in fact know that Baha'u'llah would be the Promised One whose coming he foresaw. Two years later (1952), however, Baha'u'llah himself was arrested, subjected to much ill treatment, and incarcerated in a deep dungeon in Teheran, weighed down with heavy chains in the company not only of other believers but also thieves, murderers, and other dregs of society. He was kept there for several months under constant threat of execution, and it was during that time that he received in visions the first intimation of his divine function. Then, through the intervention of the Russian ambassador, Baha'u'llah was released and exiled with his family to Baghdad, then in the Turkish Empire. He remained in Iraq until 1863, when the Turkish government moved him to Constantinople, Adrianople, and finally to Akka in Palestine, then a penal colony for the worst criminals.

On the eve of his departure, seated in a garden in Baghdad where he was receiving farewell visits, Baha'u'llah announced to a few friends gathered around him that he was the Promised One whom the Bab had told them to expect. The news spread among the Babis both in exile and in Iran, and the majority, remembering the Bab's command, accepted him.

When Baha'u'llah and his family arrived in Akka in August 1868, they were held first in a grim fortress, but later they were removed to various houses, and finally Baha'u'llah was allowed to live his last years outside the town in the country, remaining always a prisoner, however, until his passing on 29 May 1892.

According to Baha'u'llah's written instructions, his eldest son, 'Abdu'l-Baha, took charge of the affairs of the faith, being named by his father as the center of his covenant and the perfect exemplar and interpreter of his teachings. It was during his time, through a public statement at a conference in Chicago in 1893, that the Baha'i faith became known in the West. Soon after, interested people from the United States, England, and France visited 'Abdu'l-Baha in Akka. Later, from 1910 to 1912, 'Abdu'l-Baha visited Europe twice and took a long trip across the United States and Canada. He passed from this world on 28 November 1921 to be succeeded, according to his will and testament, by his eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as guardian of the faith.

During the 36 years of that guardianship, the Baha'i faith made great progress in all parts of the world, and it is still progressing, having reached every sovereign country, many remote areas, and many islands.

There are national governing bodies {called National Spiritual Assemblies) in every country of Western Europe, including all the Nordic countries--Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland--with local communities established all over each of those countries and also in Greenland.

The Baha'i faith as a world body, the latest world religion, is now under the care and jurisdiction of an international governing institution, the Universal House of Justice, seated on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel (formerly Palestine). The Holy Shrines--the Tomb of Baha'u'llah outside Akka and the Tomb of the Bab (whose remains were eventually brought to Haifa)--together with the Universal House of Justice, are the point around which the Baha'i World Centre has been established.
Conversions Worldwide

Baha'ism is said to be the fastest spreading faith in Asia, Africa, and the two Americas. Nearly 100,000 Indians are believed to have joined the faith in 1984. Similar conversions have taken place in Uganda. Baha'is have a total of 132 national spiritual assemblies and reside in 111,600 localities. Baha'is claim to have translated their literature into 640 languages. They al so claim that over 1,820 indigenous tribes, races, and ethnic groups are represented in their faith. It is reported by Baha'is that more than 64 countries have recognized their holidays and nearly 40 countries have recognized their marriages.

In Africa the Baha'i community has one temple in Kampala, but sites for 26 more temples have been obtained. Eleven African Countries have recognized Baha'i holidays while seven have recognized their marriages. The number of national spiritual assemblies is around 37, while local assemblies number 5,376.

In the Americas, Baha'is have 33 national assemblies and 5,752 local assemblies. Twenty countries have recognized their holidays, while ten have recognized their marriages. Nearly 275 indigenous tribes, races, and ethnic groups are represented in the faith, and the literature of Baha'is has been translated into 123 languages. In Asia, Baha'is have 27 national assemblies and 13,086 local spiritual assemblies. They have reached nearly 300 tribes and ethnic groups. Ten Countries have recognized Baha'i holidays and nine Baha'i marriages.

In Australia and the Pacific, the community is present in 40 countries and islands and has 14 national and 660 spiritual assemblies.

In Europe, Baha'is have 19 national and 637 local spiritual assemblies. Ten Countries have recognized Baha'i holidays and four Baha'i marriages.

In 1962 Indonesia became the first South Asian country to ban the Baha'is: presidential decree number 264, which forbade Baha'is to preach their faith, has never been withdrawn. The decree explained that the Baha'i teachings and activities were against the Islamic beliefs and sayings of the prophet. The government also considered them a threat to law and order. It is believed that some of the original Baha'is who went to Indonesia to preach their faith said to people that there was no heaven or hell in the life hereafter; that they are present in this world. It is said that some of the Baha'is go to Indonesia as visitors in order to preach their faith. The government recently made it clear, however, that it will not tolerate any breach of the law and will take a tough attitude towards anyone found engaged in spreading the Baha'i teaching and thereby dividing the people.

India is said to be a country where the Baha'is are spreading fast. In Delhi the community has established a well-designed temple and is organizing its activities from there. It is said that various groups are regularly sent to tribal areas.


From the June 1985 issue of Arabia.

Teachings of Baha'u'llah
Oneness of God--The Oneness of Religion

Since there is only one God, there can be only one religion, the Religion of God. Religion by any other name is really only a section of religion. Baha'u'llah says that revelation is not for part of humanity but for the whole world, that the world must eventually be united in one common faith, accepting the new while maintaining the basic truths of the previous revelations.
The Oneness of Humanity

Baha'u'llah constantly emphasizes this. He says that there is only one human race and that differences of race, language, color, country, etc., are merely variations in the human family. All men are brothers and once this is accepted, such things as wars, race, class, and political differences can no longer be justified. He calls on the nations to come together in unity, to outlaw war, and if any nation breaks that rule, all the rest should arise and put it down. Unity is essential and any grievance or injustice can be dealt with by a world court to which all must defer.
Equality of Men and Women

Obviously, if mankind is one, both men and women must be seen as spiritually equal and treated as human souls with the same rights and obligations.
Harmony of Religion and Science

Baha'u'llah taught that what a man does in this world must be controlled and reinforced by his spiritual qualities. Therefore, religion and science must not be in opposition but in harmony, as different aspects of truth. Everyone should, from childhood onward, receive both spiritual and general education; this is a responsibility of each country or community.
Personal Conduct

Baha'u'llah sets very high standards to guide us through life, all based on spiritual principles--selflessness, sacrifice of oneself, and purity of thought and deed as enjoined by previous revelations. He also gives some specific laws regarding prayer, fasting, the sanctity of marriage, and he prohibits the use af alcohol and drugs.
The world

The world must be governed on the basis af spiritual principles, accepting the oneness af all men, rather than the present expediency and controversy.