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The Bahá’i Faith: World Religion for Peace and Unity

Dr Mrs Janak Palta McGilligan Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2016 (13:27 IST)
Origin of Bahá’i Faith

God has revealed Himself to humanity through a series of Divine Messengers including Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Christ, and Muhammad. The latest of these Messengers is Bahá’u’lláh, who has brought new spiritual, social and administrative teachings for this age.  He is the prophet founder of  Bahá’i  Faith - an independent World Religion.


Origin of  Bahá’i Faith goes back to 1844 when the Báb ,  a young man from Shiraz, in South of Iran , announced  the imminent appearance of the Messenger of  God awaited by all the peoples of the world. The title Báb means "the Gate." Although Himself the bearer of an independent revelation from God, the Báb declared that His purpose was to prepare mankind for this advent. His message aroused hope and excitement among people from every walk of life.

Many prominent   people accepted the Báb but he suffered savage persecution at the hands of the dominant Muslim clergy. On July 9, 1850, he was executed in the public square of the city of Tabriz. More than  20,000 of  His followers were  put to death in a series of   massacres in cruellest forms of tortures  throughout Persia. Today, the majestic building with the golden dome, overlooking the Bay of Haifa, Israel, and set amidst beautiful Bahá’i gardens, is the Shrine where the Báb’s earthly remains are entombed.(1 Insert Photo  Photo of Shrine of Báb 1 Haifa  Bahá’i gardens)

Bahá'u'lláh: Founder of the Bahá'í Faith

Born in one of the great patrician families of Persia in 1817, Bahá’u’lláh declared himself to be the messenger of this age in 1863 in Baghdad. According to Bahá’u’lláh,“ there is only one God, the essence of all the Messengers of God is one and the same, all  the world’s religions are from the same God and that they differ from one another only because of the difference of requirements of the ages in which they were born. Today is the time for humanity to recognise its oneness and live in peace and harmony.”

Despite  his  lineage to the ruling dynasties  endowed with wealth and vast estates, he turned His back on the position at court which these advantages offered Him, He  became known and deeply loved among for His countrymen for  generosity and kindliness .This privileged position did not long survive  Bahá’u’lláh’s announcement of support for the message of the Báb . Engulfed in the waves of violence Bahá'u'lláh suffered not only the loss of all His worldly endowments but was subjected to imprisonment, torture, and a series of banishments. He suffered 40 years of imprisonment and exile.

During this period, Bahá'u'lláh addressed a series of letters to the rulers of His day that are among the most remarkable documents in religious history. They proclaimed the coming unification of humanity and the emergence of a world civilization. The kings, emperors, and presidents of the nineteenth century were called upon to reconcile their differences, curtail their armaments, and devote their energies to the establishment of universal peace.

Bahá’u’lláh   passed away at the age of 74, on May 29, 1892 in the prison city of Akka,   Israel. He appointed His eldest son Abdul Baha , as his successor and authorized Interpreter of  His writings . His teachings had already begun to spread beyond the confines of the Middle East. His Shrine is today the focal point of the world community which these teachings have brought into being.

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 into one global society. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth, as perceived by Bahá’u’lláh, is to accept their oneness and, to assist the processes of unification of the entire human race and to thereby carry forward an ever-advancing civilization

The Bahá'í Faith recognises the unity of God of His Prophets, upholds the principle of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice, teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to promote concord and harmony, that it must go hand-in-hand with science, and that it constitutes the sole and ultimate basis of a peaceful, an ordered and progressive society.
  
 Establishing unity and  peace in the World  are the main goals of the Bahá’í  Faith”.  In the present context, Peace is, not just a wish or a mere dream. It is now a priority, because it is hard to find a spot on this earth that has not endured suffering or conflict.

Peace will not come to us, it will not happen unless we unite to  attain   it individually  at local and collectively at global level because Bahá’u’lláh said “Earth is but one country mankind and its citizen”, and “So powerful is the light of Unity, it can illuminate the whole earth.” Thus  it will give us collective security.”

The principle of the Oneness of humankind – the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve – is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. Its appeal is not to be merely identified with a re-awakening of the spirit of brotherhood and good-will among people, nor does it aim solely at the fostering of harmonious cooperation among individual peoples and nations.

Its implications are deeper;  its message is applicable not only to the individual, but concerns itself primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family.”

According to Bahá’u’lláh, “The best beloved of all things in my sight is Justice  ...  “No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquilly of the nations depend upon it  .”
 
Today, more than a century after Bahá’u’lláh  passing, His call for world unity is taking visible shape in the worldwide Bahá’í community offering evidence that  humanity, in all its diversity, can learn to live and work as a single people in a global homeland.          

Worldwide Bahá’í Community

 Followers of   Bahá’u’lláh, are known as Bahá’is. They are spread all over the world. They are united by their common belief in Bahá’i Faith.  Bahá’i Community is a melting pot of virtually every religious background irrespective of  caste, creed and socio-economic background. The Britannica Book of the Year records the Bahá’í Community as the second most widespread of the world's independent religions in terms of the number of countries represented.

According to Britannica, the Bahá'í Faith is established in  more than 247 countries and territories; represents over 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups; has scriptures translated into over 800 languages; and has an estimated seven million adherents worldwide. Additionally, Baha’i’s have self-organized in most of the nations of the world.

Baha’i’s are striving towards creating a world civilisation characterised by justice and peace by having devotional gatherings with the understanding “Prayer is conversation with God.” In the Bahá’í Holy Writings, there are for all occasions. Prayers can be offered individually or collectively. The Word of God provides inspiration and gladdens hearts. Prayer meetings are held regularly at Bahá’í centres and in homes. The programmes are simple, free from rituals, and often include music. Bahá’is  are open to people of all faiths. Great importance is given to prayers revealed in all Scriptures. (The Bahá’í Reference Library is the authoritative online source of Bahá’í writings).

 There is no clergy /priest and  the worldwide  Bahá’I community conducts its affairs through a distinctive administrative system based on the basis of  Consultation not confrontation. The international governing council of the Bahá'ís, called, the Universal House of Justice, in its message “The Promise of World Peace” says: That materialistic ideals have, in the light of experience, failed to satisfy the needs of mankind calls for an honest acknowledgement that a fresh effort must now be made to find the solutions to the agonizing problems of the planet. The intolerable conditions pervading society bespeak a common failure of all, a circumstance which tends to incite rather than relieve the entrenchment on every side. Clearly, a common remedial effort is urgently required. It is primarily a matter of attitude. Will humanity continue in its waywardness, holding to outworn concepts and unworkable assumptions? Or will its leaders, regardless of ideology, step forth and, with a resolute will, consult together in a united search for appropriate solutions?

 Basic Teachings Principles of the Bahá'í Faith:  Basic teachings/principles of   Bahá’i Faith:  are given below along  with Bahá’í   writings. The Bahá'í community is committed to learning how to apply principles to the processes of social change and advancement.  :

Oneness of mankind   "It is not for him to pride himself who loves his own country, but rather for him, who loves the whole world. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens."

 Oneness of religion "All these divisions we see on all sides, all these disputes and opposition, are caused because men cling to ritual and outward observances, and forget the simple, underlying truth. It is the outward practices of religion that are so different, and it is they that cause disputes and enmity--while the reality is always the same, and one. The Reality is the Truth, and truth has no division. Truth is God's guidance, it is the light of the world, it is love, it is mercy. These attributes of truth are also human virtues inspired by the Holy Spirit."

 Independent investigation of truth "Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason, whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth and that which he finds real and true he must accept."

 Religion as a source of unity “He (Bahá'u'lláh) sets forth a new principle for this day in the announcement that religion must be the cause of unity, harmony and agreement among mankind. If it be the cause of discord and hostility, if it leads to separation and creates conflict, the absence of religion would be preferable in the world."

 The evolutionary nature of religion Bahá'í's view religion as a progressive, evolutionary process which needs to be updated as humanity evolves mentally, socially, and spiritually. Every so often a new Prophet is sent for humanity to update religion to the current needs of mankind. These Prophets bring essentially the same spiritual message to mankind; in a form that meets the needs of the people of   Their time. Bahá'í's believe that Bahá'u'lláh has brought an updated message for mankind today.

 Harmony in religion science and reason "Religion and science are the two wings upon which man's intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism."

 Peaceful consultation as a means for resolving differences In the Bahá'í Faith, difference of opinion is not squelched  ; in fact it is encouraged. "The shining   spark of truth   cometh forth only   after   the clash of differing opinions." However, differences of opinion can be expressed in a    way    that do not humiliate another human being. The Bahá'í principle of consultation requires that an individual be detached from his or her opinions and always be open to the truth, from whoever or wherever it comes from.

 An international auxiliary language "It behoveth the sovereigns of the world may God assist them or the ministers of the earth to take counsel together and to adopt one of the existing languages or a new one to be taught to children in schools throughout the world, and likewise one script. Thus the whole earth will come to be regarded as one country."

Universal education“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit there from…“Because every child stands in need of education, particularly in values, it is essential that education be provided for girl children, who will be the mothers and first educators of succeeding generations. Educating mothers is the most efficient way of ensuring that the benefits of education are diffused into society as a whole. Providing women and girls equal access to education will also make possible their full participation in society, which Baha'is believe will be the catalyst for the creation of a just society and the establishment of lasting peace in the world. “

 The elimination of all forms of "...again, as to religious, racial, national and political bias: all these prejudices strike at the very root of human life; one and all they beget bloodshed, and the ruination of the world. So long as these prejudices survive, there will be continuous and fearsome wars."

 Equality of men and women   “Humanity is like a bird with its two wings -- the one is man, the other woman. Unless both wings are strong and impelled by some common force, the bird cannot fly heavenward."”  To accept and observe a distinction which God has not intended in creation is ignorance and superstition. The fact which is to be considered, however, is that woman, having formerly been deprived, must now be allowed equal opportunities with man for education and training. There must be no difference in their education. Until the reality of equality between man and woman is fully established and attained, the highest social development of mankind is not possible."

 The abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty,  "O Ye Rich Ones on Earth! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.

        Obedience to the Laws of Land / Government

  • Bahá'ís  have  to take their civic responsibilities seriously and uphold the authority of the Government through loyalty and obedience to the laws of the land
  • They have to  abstain from partisanship , not to  join political parties or factions, run for elected political office or accept political appointments. This is due to the cardinal belief in the vital need for unity in society. They believe that their best contribution to society can be made by working with others to help build a world that is just, peaceful and united.
  • Backbiting and gossip are prohibited and denounced.
  • Baha’is are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs, unless   prescribed by doctors.
  • They have to maintain Chastity  in and outside marriage
  • Fanaticism is forbidden.
  • Personal laws, such as prayer  / fasting, is the sole responsibility of the individual.
  • Bahá'u'lláh highly praised marriage, discouraged divorce and homosexuality, and required chastity   in and outside of marriage;  husband and wife should strive to improve the spiritual life of each other. 
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