The Bahá’í Faith was founded by Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, or Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), considered to be the most recent in a line of Divine Messengers, or Messengers of God. He was succeeded by his son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), who was followed by Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957).
A Bahá’í is a follower of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’ís believe that humanity is a single race that must unify in a global society, and that God, through history, is breaking down the barriers of race, class, creed, and nation. Bahá’u’lláh called himself a Divine Messenger and taught that the founders of all the major world religions, including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, and Muhammad, were also Divine Messengers. Each brought a successive revelation of the same God, with the purpose of unifying humanity into a peaceful, global society.
The Bahá’í Faith was founded in 1844. Its history began with Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, or the Báb, a mystical Muslim merchant who lived from 1819-1850. The Báb claimed to be a divine messenger, and later to be the prophesied Hidden Imam. Imams were the spiritual leaders of the Shi’ite Muslims in Iran and Iraq. Prophecies arose about the return of the Hidden Imam after the final Imam went into hiding in the 10th century CE. The Báb’s claim to be that Hidden Imam and his growing popularity caused conflict with the Shiah leaders and clerics of the time. He was eventually assassinated in Azerbaijan in 1850, an event which came to be known as the Martyrdom of the Báb. Before his death, the Báb prophesied about a coming deliverer, “Him Whom God Will Make Manifest.” Several years after the Martyrdom of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh claimed to be that deliverer.
The Bahá’í Faith began in Persia (Iran), but now has adherents across the world. It has Houses of Worship in the United States, Panama, Uganda, Germany, India, Australia, and Samoa. The largest Bahá’í communities are located in India, Iran, the United States, Malaysia, Brazil, Kenya, Zaire/Congo, Uganda, and Bolivia. The Universal House of Justice, the ruling body of the Bahá’í faith worldwide, is located in Israel.
Who is God?
There is one God, who is omnipotent and omniscient. He is the creator of all things. The Bahá’í faith believes that all religions worship the same God, but conceive of God in different ways (Allah, Yahweh, Brahma, Waheguru, Buddha, etc. are all just different names for the same God). God is too great and subtle to be fully understood by the minds of finite humans, but humans can experience and understand many things about God. Humans are able to know that God loves, and humans are able to experience that love, but they cannot fully understand or experience all of God’s love because it is so great.
Where Did We Come From?
We are all created by God. All humans and all of creation are his handiwork and reflect his attributes. According to Bahá’u’lláh, the universe is of great age, and creation has always existed and has always had something equivalent to humanity. Bahá’u’lláh’s son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, taught that the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is meant to be taken metaphorically, instead of literally.
Why Are We Here?
We are here to know and worship God, and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The oneness of humanity is the central teaching of the Bahá’í Faith. It stresses the equality of all people regardless of their racial background or sex and the need to build international structures to abolish war, strengthen justice and international law, ameliorate poverty, spread universal education, and resolve environmental problems.
How Do We Know?
The writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb are considered sacred, as is the Qu’rán. Bahá’u’lláh is a Manifestation of God (Divine Messenger) and as such has the capacity to receive divine revelation and to transmit it infallibly to humans. Bahá’u’lláh’s writings are considered a later (and more complete) revelation than the Qu’rán. Bahá’u’lláh, as a follower of the Báb, was familiar with both the Qu’rán, and Bayán the major work by the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh’s books include Kitáb-i-Iqán, or the Book of Certitude, The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys, and Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
What Do We Have to Do?
There are no ceremonies in the Bahá’í tradition, nor are there any sacraments or rituals. There are no Bahá’í clergy, although there are elected and appointed leaders who administer the Bahá’í Faith around the world. All Bahá’ís must pray daily. They are also called to abstain from all narcotics and alcohol (any substance which can alter the mind). They are called to monogamy, and those getting married must seek parental approval. When possible, attendance at the Nineteen Day Feast is required. This feast happens at the beginning of each month. The Bahá’í year consists of 19 months, each with 19 days, so the feast takes place every nineteen days. In each year, there are four intercalary days (five in leap years). Bahá’ís are also called to fast from sunrise to sunset during the nineteen days of the Bahá’í Fast, which takes place March 2-20. Since Bahá’ís are committed to the betterment and unity of humanity, they call for the abandonment of all forms of prejudice, along with assurance to women of full equality of opportunity with men. In addition, they strive to establish a global commonwealth of nations. They seek the recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth and work toward the elimination of the extremes of poverty and wealth. Universal education is highly valued as a means to enable each person to independently search for truth. Out of this comes the recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of knowledge. A major goal of Bahá’ís is to redefine human relationships in the light of humanity’s knowledge of God’s will and purpose, and to free the human consciousness from traditional patterns.
What’s Going on Today?
The Bahá’í Faith has over five million adherents across the world. It is administered by the Universal House of Justice. Rulings from the Universal House of Justice have the same authority as the sacred writings. There are Bahá’í houses of worship on every continent in the world except for Antarctica.
How Do We Recognize It?
A simple nine-pointed star is generally used by Bahá’ís as a symbol of their Faith. The number nine has significance in the Bahá’í Revelation. Nine years after the announcement of the Báb in Shiraz, Bahá’u’lláh received the intimation of His mission in the dungeon in Tehran. Nine, as the highest single-digit number, symbolizes completeness. Since the Bahá’í Faith claims to be the fulfillment of the expectations of all prior religions, this symbol reflects that sense of fulfillment and completeness.
Compiled, written and edited by Jonathan Ketcham, under the direction of Rev. Dean Borgman, Charles E. Culpepper Professor of Youth Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and director of the Center for Youth Studies.
This is the official homepage of the Bahá’í Faith worldwide. It offers information about the faith, its history and its teachings
Section on Baha’i
Brief overview with hyperlinks to related subjects in the online encyclopedia.
Part of the Bahá’í World Centre’s Department of Library and Archival Services.
A publication of the Research Office of the Bahá’í National Center, Wilmette, Illinois. A comprehensive research and educational tool for the student or teacher of the Bahá’í Faith.. Includes curriculum guides, lecture outlines annotated bibliographies, lists of educational materials, Internet resources.
This site offers searchable copies of the writings of the Bahá’í tradition.
This site offers a variety of Bahá’í prayers in several different languages.
This site offers a look at some of the texts which shape the Bahá’í faith.
This is the official homepage of the Bahá’í Faith in the United States. It is directly linked to the worldwide page.
Bahá’u’lláh. (1994) Seven Valleys. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
Brugiroux, Andre. (1994). One People One Planet. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
Bryson, Alan. (1993). Light After Death: A Comparison of the Near-Death Experience and the Teachings of the Bahá’í Faith on Life After Death. London: Sterling Pub. Private Ltd.
Esslemont, J.E. (1980) Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era: An Introduction to the Bahá’í Faith. Wilmette: Bahá’í Pub. Trust.
Gouvion, Colette and Jouvion. (1994). The Gardeners of God: An Encounter with Five Million Bahá’ís. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
Hatcher, William S. and Martin, J. Douglas. (1984). The Bahá’í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Honnold, Annamarie (Comp.). (1999). Divine Therapy: Pearls of Wisdom from the Bahá’í Writings. London: George Ronald Pub. Ltd.
Matthews, Gary L. (2000). He Cometh With Clouds: A Bahá’í View of Christ’s Return. London: George Ronald Pub. Ltd.
Matthews, Gary L. (2001). The Challenge of Bahá’u’lláh: Proofs of the Bahá’í Revelation. London: George Ronald Pub. Ltd.
Momen, Moojan. (1999). The Bahá’í Faith: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
Ruhe-Schoen, Janet. (1998). A Love Which Does Not Wait. Riviera Beach: Palabra Publications.
Saiedi, Nader. (2000). Logos & Civilization: Spirit, History and Order in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Bethesda: University Press of Maryland.
Sheppherd, Joseph. (1992). The Elements of the Bahá’í Faith. Rockport: Element.
Smith, Peter. (1988). The Bahá’í Religion: A Short Introduction to Its History and Teachings. London: George Ronald Pub. Ltd.
Smith, Peter. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá’í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
St. Rain, Justice. (1999). Falling Into Grace: The Trials and Triumphs of Becoming a Bahá’í. Heltonville: Special Ideas.
ONE COUNTRY, the newsletter of the Bahá’í International Community, is a publication of the Office of Public Information of the Bahá’í International Community. In its printed format, ONE COUNTRY is published quarterly. Each 16-page issue contains two or three in-depth feature stories on the United Nations, noteworthy social and economic development projects, environmental efforts or educational programs, along with an editorial that addresses world problems from a Bahá’í point of view. It is published in English, French, Chinese, Russian, German and Spanish, and is currently mailed to more than 30,000 readers in more than 170 countries.
The Bahá’í World News Service reports on the activities, projects and events of the worldwide Bahá’í community. All stories and photographs produced by the Bahá’í World News Service may be freely reprinted, re-emailed, re-posted to the World Wide Web and otherwise reproduced by any individual or organization, subject to certain restrictions. The Bahá’í World News Service is an agency of the Bahá’í International Community, a non-governmental organization that represents and encompasses the five million members of the Bahá’í Faith.
The Bahá’í World Web site represents the official presence of the Bahá’í Faith on the World Wide Web. It is sponsored by the Office of Public Information of the Bahá’í International Community.
The Association for Bahá’í Studies promotes the development and dissemination of scholarship on the Bahá’í Faith in North America. Founded in 1975 as a result of the commitment of a diverse group of interest persons, the work of the Association has, through the support and encouragement of the Bahá’í Institutions and Bahá’ís worldwide, expanded far beyond its original mandate. The Association is a cooperative effort of the National Spiritual Assemblies of Canada, the United States and Alaska, serving under the supervision of the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada.
The Centre for Bahá’í Studies, located in Ottawa, Canada, coordinates the activities of the Association in North America and serves as a centre for research, assistance, and information. Adjacent to the University of Ottawa, the Centre enjoys easy access to the university library and other university facilities. These resources, combined with the Centre’s own library, offer an unparalleled facility for research on the Bahá’í Faith.