The basic principles of the Bahá'í Faith
Some of the basic principles of the Bahá'í
The oneness of mankind
"It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but
rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one
country and mankind its citizens." --Gleanings from the Writings of
Bahá'u'lláh, p. 250.
The 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." --`Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp.
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." --`Abdu'l-Baha, The
Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.
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."
--`Abdu'l-Baha, Bahá'í World Faith, p. 247.
The evolutionary nature of religion
Bahá'ís 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 to 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'ís believe
that Bahá'u'lláh has brought an updated message for mankind today.
"There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message.
They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret. To
prefer one in honor to another, to exalt certain ones above the
rest, is in no wise to be permitted. Every true Prophet hath
regarded His Message as fundamentally the same as the Revelation of
every other Prophet gone before Him... The measure of the revelation
of the Prophets of God in this world, however, must differ. Each and
every one of them hath been the Bearer of a distinct Message, and
hath been commissioned to reveal Himself through specific acts. It
is for this reason that they appear to vary in their greatness... It
is clear and evident, therefore, that any apparent variation in the
intensity of their light is not inherent in the light itself, but
should rather be attributed to the varying receptivity of an
ever-changing world. Every Prophet Whom the Almighty and Peerless
Creator hath purposed to send to the peoples of the earth hath been
entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would
best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared."
--Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.78-9.
Harmony between 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." --`Abdu'l-Baha,
Paris Talks, p.143.
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." --Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Baha,
However, differences of opinion can be expressed in a way that
doesn't 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.
"They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity,
care and moderation to express their views. They must in every
manner search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion,
for stubbornness and persistence in one's views will lead ultimately
to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden. The
honored members (of the consulting body) must with all freedom
express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one
to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set
forth the truth..." --Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Baha,
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." --Bahá'u'lláh,
Tablet of Bisharat (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 22.)
"Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and
daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been
laid down in the Holy Tablet. He that putteth away that which is
commanded unto him, the Trustees of the House of Justice are then to
recover from him that which is required for their instruction, if he
be wealthy, and if not the matter devolveth upon the House of
Justice. Verily, have We made it a shelter for the poor and needy.
He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though
he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My
Loving-Kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world."
--Bahá'u'lláh, Tablet of Ishraqat (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p.128).
The elimination of all forms of prejudice
"...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." --Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Baha, p.249.
Equality of men and women
"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." --`Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,
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." --The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh,
"We see amongst us men who are overburdened with riches on the one
hand, and on the other those unfortunate ones who starve with
nothing; those who possess several stately palaces, and those who
have not where to lay their head. Some we find with numerous courses
of costly and dainty food; whilst others can scarce find sufficient
crusts to keep them alive. Whilst some are clothed in velvets, furs
and fine linen, others have insufficient, poor and thin garments
with which to protect them from the cold.
This condition of affairs is wrong and must be remedied. Now the
remedy must be carefully undertaken. It cannot be done by bringing
to pass absolute equality between men." -`Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks,
"The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of
a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally
realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it,
and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and
means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace amongst
men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve,
for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be
fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms
against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this
be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any
armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of
their realms and of maintaining internal order within their
territories." --Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 249.
In May of 1844, a young Persian by the name of Siyyid `Ali Muhammad
declared that He was the promised Qa'im of Shi'ah Islam. He assumed
the title of The Bab (Gate). The Bab's mission was twofold: He first
announced to the people of His native land His own station as an
independent Messenger and He also prepared the way for the coming of
another Manifestation (messenger) of God, a Prophet who would
announce His station soon after The Bab.
The next six years marked a dramatic increase in both the number of
persons who became followers of the Bab and in the energy spent by
the Shi'ah clergy of Iran to stamp out this new religion. Eventually
20,000 Babis would be put to death for their beliefs. The Bab
Himself was imprisoned and was executed in July of 1850.
Many Babis were also imprisoned. Among them was Mirza Husayn-`Ali,
entitled Bahá'u'lláh (The Glory of God) by The Bab. Imprisoned for
several months in 1853 in Tehran and then exiled to Iraq, in the
city of Baghdad in 1863 Bahá'u'lláh announced to the world His
station as the One for Whom the Bab had prepared the way. The
majority of the Babis accepted Bahá'u'lláh's claim and became known
as Bahá'ís (the followers of Bahá).
Shortly after His declaration, Bahá'u'lláh was again banished, even
further From His native land: from Baghdad to Constantinople, and
then to Adrianople. Finally in 1867, Bahá'u'lláh was exiled for the
last time. He was sent to the prison city of Akka (Acre) in
Palestine. He would stay in and around Akka until the end of His
life in 1892.
Before Bahá'u'lláh passed away, He appointed His eldest son,
`Abdu'l-Baha, to be the center of His Covenant and the interpreter
of His writings. `Abdu'l-Baha was leader of the Bahá'í Faith until
His own passing in 1921. Although He is not considered to be a
Manifestation of God like the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh , `Abdu'l-Baha's
decisions are believed to have been divinely guided and His writings
(along with the Bab's and Bahá'u'lláh's) are considered a part of
the Bahá'í sacred scripture. After being released from the prison in
Akka, `Abdu'l-Baha made several journeys to the West, including a
trip to America in 1912.
Recent History and Current Status
`Abdu'l-Baha stated in his Will and Testament that leadership of the
Bahá'í community was to be passed on to his eldest grandson, Shoghi
Effendi, who became the "Guardian" of the Bahá'í community after
`Abdu'l-Baha died. Shoghi Effendi led the Bahá'ís until his passing
in 1957. It was under Shoghi Effendi's leadership that the Bahá'í
Faith spread to all corners of the world. Today there are Bahá'ís in
over 200 countries and territories and Bahá'í literature has been
translated into over 700 different languages.
Consistent with the Bahá'í principle of independent investigation of
truth, according to which no individual Bahá'í may offer an
interpretation of the Bahá'í Writings by which others are bound,
there is no clergy in the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'í institutions govern
the administrative affairs of the Faith. In each locality,
nine-member boards known as Local Spiritual Assemblies are elected
annually. At the national level are National Spiritual Assemblies,
also consisting of nine members, elected annually by representatives
of the Bahá'ís in each country. At the international level is the
Universal House of Justice, centered in Haifa, Israel (just across
the bay from the prison city of Akka, where Bahá'u'lláh and
`Abdu'l-Baha were imprisoned). The Universal House of Justice also
consists of nine members and is elected every five years by members
of the National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world. The
Universal House of Justice has final responsibility for overseeing
the international Bahá'í community.