BAHA'I FAITH





History

he Bahá'í Faith began on May 23, 1844 in Persia when Mírzá `Alí Muhammad, a descendent of Muhammad, announced that He was a Divine Messenger, sent to prepare the way for the coming of “The One Whom God Will Make Manifest.”
he nineteenth century was a period of intense religious fervor throughout the world.  It was a time when all the world’s religions were expecting the appearance of the Promised One:

The Hindus were expecting the Tenth Avatar
Buddhists awaited the appearance of the Fifth Buddha
Zoroastrians were awaiting the World Renovator
Jews expected the Messiah
Muslims anticipated the Day of God, when some said the Mahdi and Christ would both appear
And Christians all over the world expected Christ’s return.

hey had good reasons for expecting Him at that time:  Christ said that the “time of the end” would come when the gospel was “…preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations…” (Matthew 24:14).  This was realized in the mid-nineteenth century when the Gideons, and a number of other Bible Societies, were successful in spreading the Gospel to some remote parts of Africa and South America – the only areas on the earth that had not as yet been introduced to Christ’s message.
hrist also said He would return when the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled:  In 1844 the Ottomans issued the Edict of Toleration granting the Jews, who had been exiled since 70 AD, the right to worship in Jerusalem.  In so doing, they ended a period of over 1700 years that the Holy City was “…trodden down of the Gentiles…” (Luke 21:24).
hrist also told His followers that when they saw “…the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the Prophet” they would know the time was near (Matthew 24:3-15).  Therefore, using the same time prophesy concerning His first coming (Daniel 9:25-27), religious leaders calculated the time of His return at around 1843-1846.  (There were several edicts to rebuild Jerusalem. However, according to the Book of Ezra, it was only the third edict, written by King Artaxerxes in the year 457 BC, that was carried out.)
n 1844 Mírzá `Alí Muhammad began to proclaim the advent of the Day of God.  He was known then as The Báb (Door or Gate).  Like John the Baptist, He heralded the coming of One greater then Himself and paved the way for Bahá’u’lláh (the Glory of God) Who, in 1863, proclaimed He was the Promised One of all ages.  This is how the Bahá'í Religion was born.
Shrine of The Bab, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel
Shrine of Baha'u'llah, Bahji, Israel
he two Messengers of God never met face to face.  The Báb was executed for “heresy” on July 9, 1850; He was thirty-one years old.  Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned and stripped of all His worldly possessions.  Then the authorities banished Him from place to place until He reached the prison city of Akka.  There He spent the rest of His life, revealing God’s Message to the world through His writings.  He ascended in 1892, after forty years of exile and imprisonment; He was seventy-five years old.



Some of Our Beliefs


Progressive Revelation
ahá'ís believe that God has sent Messengers periodically throughout human history.  We believe that the term “end times” does not refer to the end of the physical world but to the end of a cycle of human history - a time when man has become a lover of self and, consequently, has corrupted God's Message.  This is a time when religious leaders are engaged in creating religious doctrine based on their own vain imaginings, yet they perceive it as having come from God.  "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." (Luke 7:9).
hroughout history, God’s revelation has been progressive and in accordance with man’s stage of development.  Thus we see that Noah’s religion involved building altars and offering burnt sacrifices – a form of worship suitable to the primitive society of His time.
Lamps on a Pathway at the Baha'i World Centre, Haifa, Israel uring the time of Moses, however, man had progressed further, therefore God gave man a set of laws suitable to the society of His time, laws that would not only enhance man’s spiritual life but advance his civilization as well.
y the time of Christ, man had reached an even higher level of development.  Consequently, Christ’s message was not one of detailed instruction, as was Moses’ revelation, but one that engaged man’s intellect through abstract thought.  For this reason, Christ’s message appeared to be very different than that of Moses; it was not in alignment with the religious doctrine prescribed to the children of Israel by their religious leaders. Therefore, they could not accept it came from the same source (the God of Abraham) and they remained within the confines of Mosaic Law.  The Revelation of Christ was then perceived as a new religion.  “No man also having drunk old wine straitway desireth new: for he saith.  The old is better (Luke 5:39).


The Oneness of Religion
very time a Manifestation of God appears upon the earth, He eliminates some of the social laws of God’s religion and leaves new laws that are more suitable to the society of His time.  For example, Christ abrogated Levitical Law with respect to divorce, criminal and civil justice, however the spiritual truth remained the same:  Love God and love your neighbour.  “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time … But I say unto you…” (Matthew 5:22, 27, 38).  The same spiritual truth is common to all world religions; it is only the social aspect of the particular religion that varies, due to the social laws established by the Prophet-Founder. Therefore, it's outer expression creates an illusion of dissimilarity when, in fact, it is the same, never-changing Truth of God.  “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.(Revelations 21:5).




e are currently at the close of the Adamic Cycle
(the cycle of human history that began with Adam)
and at the beginning of the Bahá'í Cycle.



The Prophets and the Holy Ghost
ahá'ís believe in the Unity of the Messengers or Manifestations of God.  That is, these Messengers are all preordained by God to renew His religion.  However, the power and authority to do so is conferred upon Them through the Holy Ghost when the time to delivery Their message draws near:  Noah, Abraham and Moses -- all had this life-altering experience. "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straigtway out of the water and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” (Revelations 21:5).  Hence, it is the Holy Ghost, or Christ Spirit, that returns throughout history, not the Messenger.
he return of the Holy Ghost is further illustrated in the Gospel where Christ explains why it was not Elijah Himself who returned as the Jews expected, but John the Baptist who came with the same mission and the same Spirit that empowered Elijah in His day:  And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed … Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)
n the same manner, the person of Jesus did not return at the time of the end, but the Holy Ghost was conferred upon another Messenger.  Bahá'ís believe Bahá’u’lláh is the One of Whom Christ said:  “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you unto all truth:  for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak:  and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13)
ence Bahá'ís make no distinction between the Manifestations of God.  They are each chosen by God to renew His religion and, for this purpose, are endowed with the same Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth that appears on the earth every thousand years or so:
“The attributes of God are not and have never been
vouchsafed specially unto certain Prophets, and withheld
from others.  Nay, all the Prophets of God,
His well-favoured, His holy, and chosen Messengers,
are, without exception the bearers of His names,
and the embodiments of His attributes ...”

          .....from The Book of Certitude


The Purpose of Life
he embryo passes through numerous phases of growth in the womb of its mother.  In so doing, it acquires the instruments necessary for this life:  arms, legs, vital organs, sight, hearing and so on.  Thus, life in the womb is merely a process of preparation for this life.  If the growth of the fetus is stunted – if it fails to attain one or more of these members – the child will be faced with challenges not easily overcome in this life.  He will be unable to progress, physically, at the same rate and in the same manner as the child who is born 'whole'.
In the same manner, this life is a preparation for the next.  It is the instrument with which we develop spiritual qualities – the powers we will need in the spiritual realm.  Should we fail to acquire these spiritual faculties we will be born handicapped into the next life and our progression toward God, our ultimate destination, will be hindered.  The vehicle by which we attain to these spiritual powers is the worship of God. Hence, the purpose of life is to know and to love God.

…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

          (Matthew 22:37).


O Son of Spirit!
There is no peace for thee save
by renouncing thyself and turning to Me;
for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own;
to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself,
since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is.

          .....from The Hidden Words



Heaven and Hell
ahá'ís believe heaven and hell are not places to which the spirit traverses when one abandons this earthly frame, but rather spiritual conditions that can be achieved both in this life and in the next.  That is, heaven is the condition of nearness to God – the more we progress along spiritual lines, the closer we get to God and the more love, peace of mind and happiness we experience.  Conversely, the more we fail to seize our opportunities to advance along spiritual lines, and instead focus on material desires, the more distant we get from God and the more negativity we experience.  Therefore, hell is a distance from God so great that one suffers a spiritual death, consumed by anger, fear, resentment, envy and so on.

But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry
with his brother shall be in danger of the
judgment: and whosoever shall say to his
brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council:
but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall
be in danger of hell fire.

(Matthew 5:22)

…. but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
(Matthew 19:17)

atan, the Deceiver, is synonymous with the human ego. It is the quality of man that causes him to withdraw from the Light of the spirit and succumb instead to the passions of self. Nevertheless, the ego is God-given and is, therefore, good and beneficial to man.  It causes us to experience fear, resentment, pride, envy etc.  However, it is when we are consumed with these passions of self that we, most fervently, seek God’s salvation and, through supplication, draw nearer to Him.  Of course, we can also choose to succumb to the anger, envy, fear, etc., and instead experience a spiritual death.  Hence, achieving to the nearness of God (heaven) or suffering a spiritual death (hell) is neither reward nor punishment, but a direct consequence of the choices we make:

O Son of Man!
My calamity is My providence,
outwardly it is fire and vengeance,
but inwardly it is light and mercy.
Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become
an eternal light and an immortal spirit.
This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.

.....from The Hidden Words



Principles of the Bahá'i Faith

ahá’u’lláh emphasized several principles that Bahá'ís must strive to achieve in their social environment.  They serve as guides for the spiritual progression of both the individual believer and the Bahá'í community as a whole:

Baha'i 9-pointed star
        The oneness of humanity
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        The equality of men and women
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        The elimination of prejudice
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        The elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        The independent investigation for Truth
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        Universal education
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        Religious tolerance
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        The harmony of science and religion
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        A world commonwealth of nations
Baha'i 9-pointed star
        A universal auxiliary language



Practises and Traditions

Prayer and Fasting
ahá'ís engage in prayer and read from the Writings daily.  We also reflect upon our deeds at the close of each day:

O Son of Being!
Bring thyself to account each day
ere thou art summoned to a reckoning;
for death, unheralded, shall come upon
thee and thou shalt be called
to give account for thy deeds.
.....from The Hidden Words

rayer is considered a personal conversation between the believer and God and is, therefore, done in private.  We do not engage in congregational prayer, although at gatherings it is customary for individuals to recite some of the prayers that Bahá’u’lláh was heard to utter during His lifetime.
e fast from sunrise to sundown during nineteen days of the year.  The Bahá'í calendar is based on the solar year and is comprised of nineteen months of nineteen days each, plus four Intercalary days.  We fast in the last month of the Bahá'í calendar which coincides with March 2 through March 20 of the Gregorian calendar.


The Feast and Other Gatherings
ahá'ís begin every month with a Feast – a time when the community comes together in fellowship and worship.  We generally include other gatherings in our monthly activities as well.  One of these is the Fireside Chat, which is usually held one or more times during the month.  People of other religions are welcome at these gatherings and are encouraged to ask any questions they may have about the Faith.
n addition to these gatherings there are many other Bahá'í activities to foster fellowship and unity within both the Bahá'í community and the greater society.  For instance, in the year 2000, Bahá'ís of diverse ethnicities jogged across the United States and Canada to promote racial unity; it was called the 'Spirit Run'.


Teaching the Faith
roselytizing is forbidden in the Bahá'í Faith.  We are urged to wait for a listening ear and to refrain from imposing our ideas on others.  We are to attract people through our example and not mere words:

…Whoso ariseth among you to teach
the Cause of his Lord, let him, before all else,
teach his own self, that his speech may attract
the hearts of them that hear him …
Take heed, O people, lest ye be of them that
give good counsel to others but forget to follow
it themselves…”

.....from Gleanings


O Son of Dust!
Verily I say unto thee:
Of all men the most negligent
is he that disputeth idly and seeketh
to advance himself over his brother.
Say, O brethren!
Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.

.....from The Hidden Words



Links to some Bahá'í Sites

The Baha'i Faith in America

The Directory of Baha'i Communities

The Golden Rule; the continuum of one changeless single standard

A profile of the Baha'i Faith
and it's worldwide community, in many languages


Christianity from a Baha'i Perspective

The Baha'i Holy Land:
Over 200 photographs; explanations and history
of the Bahá'í Holy Places in Israel


The Power of Race Unity

The "Time" Prophecies

More Time Prophecies




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this page authored by Carmen Reyes (a.k.a. Hope1844)