What is the Baha'i Faith?
About the Bahá’í Faith
Throughout history, God has sent to humanity a series of divine Educators—known as Manifestations of God—whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization. These Manifestations have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muḥammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.
Bahá’ís believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life. Such a vision unfolds in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh.
“Let your vision be world embracing.”
In the year 1863, in what is now modern-day Iraq, Bahá’u’lláh declared his mission as the next manifestation in a long line of previous manifestations. He began to share the new message entrusted to Him. He was rejected by the ruling elite, imprisoned, tortured, and banished from His homeland. A series of harsh exiles brought Bahá’u’lláh to what is now modern-day Israel.
Before Bahá’u’lláh’s passing, He revealed his last Will and Testament naming the line of succession referred to as the Covenant, from Him to His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and then to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s grandson, Shoghi Ef-fendi, and then to Universal House of Justice, ordained by Bahá’u’lláh.
A Bahá’í accepts the divine authority of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and of these appointed successors.
Customs and People
Bahá’ís hail from all walks of life. Young and old, men and women alike, they live alongside others in every land and belong to every nation. They share a common goal of serving humanity and refining their inner lives in accordance with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. The community to which they belong is one of learning and action, free from any sense of superiority or claim to exclusive understanding of truth. It is a community that strives to cultivate hope for the future of humanity, to foster purposeful effort, and to celebrate the endeavors of all those in the world who work to promote unity and alleviate human suffering.
The energy that Bahá’ís devote to enhancement of institutional capacity and the care with which they follow the evolution and development of administrative processes and structures is not motivated simply by a wish to increase the efficiency with which the Bahá’í community’s own affairs are managed. Bahá’ís recognize that these processes and structures are a necessary contribution to the new social order envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, and they will foster a new mature humanity who will attend to its political, social, and cultural affairs. There are no clergy. Campaigning for elected offices is not allowed. All voting is carried out anonymously by secret ballot. The focus is on choosing the best person for each position, free from influence.
Prayer is integral to Bahá’í life, whether at the level of the individual, the community, or the institutions. Bahá’ís turn their hearts in prayer to God repeatedly throughout the day—imploring His assistance, supplicating Him on behalf of loved ones, offering praise and gratitude, and seeking divine confirmations and guidance.
Bahá’ís also host gatherings in which friends, Bahá’ís and others alike, unite together in prayer, often in one another’s homes. Devotional meetings such as these serve to awaken spiritual susceptibilities within the participants, and in concert with the acts of service they perform, lead to a pattern of community life that is infused with the spirit of devotion and focused on the attainment of spiritual and material prosperity.
“Praise be to God, thy heart is engaged in the commemoration of God, thy soul is gladdened by the glad tidings of God and thou art absorbed in prayer. The state of prayer is the best of conditions…”
All across the world, individuals are engaged in a process to advance their spiritual, social and intellectual capacities to contribute to the development of their communities.
The activities at the heart of this process are; meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community, classes that nurture the tender hearts of children, groups that assist junior youth to navigate through a crucial stage of their lives, and study circles that foster the understanding and application of the Baha'i teachings to individual and collective life.
These activities are offered by Bahá'í communities around the world and they involve people of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of religion, who share a common purpose: to promote the welfare and wellbeing of the whole.
Baha’i children’s classes aim to nurture the hearts and minds of children. The emphasis of these classes is on helping children to learn to reflect on and apply spiritual principles, such as love, unity and justice, to their own lives and to the lives of those around them.
Junior Youth Groups
The Junior Youth Empowerment Program engages peers aged 11 to 15 to help them develop their powers of expression, capacities for moral reasoning, and an ethic of service to others. The program combines study, mentorship and social action.
A regular gathering of people from all faiths and backgrounds who come together in a locality to share prayers and worship. Often held in homes, neighborhoods, or community centers. Devotional gatherings are considered an essential practice of the spiritual wellbeing of a community, and follow no set form or rituals.
The purpose of Bahá’í study circles is to provide participants with the knowledge, spiritual insights and skills to enable them to contribute to the betterment of society, starting with their own neighbourhood. This is done through systematic study of a sequence of courses based on the Bahá’í Writings using the courses of the Ruhi Institute.