What is the Baha’i Faith?

An Introduction

The Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions, marking its origin on May 23, 1844. In the century and a half since then it has spread around the globe, gaining adherents in 235 countries and territories to become the second-most widespread religion after Christianity. Its five million members are drawn from over 2,100 ethnic, racial and tribal groups, making it one of the most diverse organizations in the world.

Bahá’ís believe in one God who sent Messengers to teach us about Him and to provide guidance for our lives, both as individuals and as societies. He has sent these Messengers from the beginning and will continue to send them, at approximately one thousand-year intervals, for as long as mankind endures. All the world’s religions were established by these Messengers. Thus, all religions are in their essence one, successive stages in a never-ending cycle of progressive revelation. Although outwardly they appear to differ, inwardly they all teach the same basic truths. Their apparent differences are to be attributed to the differing requirements and capacities of the people for whom they were revealed. Bahá’ís accept Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u'lláh as Messengers of God.

There is only one human race. All people are one, regardless of racial, ethnic, economic, national or religious background. Our differences lend strength and beauty to humanity and should not be a cause for division and hatred. Accordingly, all forms of prejudice must be eliminated, the equality of women must be firmly established, extremes of wealth and poverty must be eliminated and everyone must receive an education. Bahá’ís actively pursue these and other humanitarian goals as means for advancing the unity of humanity.

The time for world peace is now at hand. The rulers of the world must fix borders and levels of armaments, then practice collective security to reduce the threat of war. A universal auxiliary language must be chosen to facilitate communication among all the world’s peoples. A model for a future global society is found in the Bahá’í administration, which provides for nonpolitical elections, a spiritual process of consultation and unified action once decisions are made. Governments can take the first steps to reduce the threat of war, but only through the global application of Bahá’u'lláh’s principles will a true and lasting peace, “the Most Great Peace,” be established. As hard as it may be to envision this happening right now, world peace is not only possible but inevitable.

Individual spiritual practice includes daily prayer, study of the Holy Writings and a brief period of fasting in March of each year. Bahá’í communities gather once each 19 days for worship, consultation on community affairs and socializing. There is no clergy, so worship consists primarily of reading from the Holy Writings, often with musical interludes or accompaniment.

The spiritual principles which govern Bahá’í life are much the same as those found in other religions. Honesty, trustworthiness, courtesy, purity of motive, charity, justice, love and unity are all enjoined. Backbiting is forbidden. Because there is no clergy, every Bahá’í has a duty to teach others about the religion. When teaching, Bahá’ís must use tact and wisdom, and avoid both proselytizing and argument.

Excerpt from Dale Lehman http://www.planetbahai.org/

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