The Bahá’í Faith
‘The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens’
There are approximately 5 million members of the Bahá’í Faith worldwide. It is the second most
widespread of all world religions – currently found in 253 countries.
Central to the Bahá’í Faith is the conviction that all people are equal and share a common destiny. It is a
monotheistic faith that recognizes the validity of all the world’s great religions. The religion was founded
approximately 160 years ago, making it the world’s youngest monotheistic faith.
There are approximately 6,000 Bahá’ís in the UK today.
History: The Herald
The Bahá’í Faith began with a youth, named Mírzá ‘Ali-Muhammad, known as the Báb (Gate), who in May,
1844, at the age of twenty-five, advanced the claim of being the Herald who, according to the sacred
Scriptures of previous Dispensations, must prepare the way for the advent of One greater than Himself,
Whose mission would be to inaugurate an era of righteousness and peace, an era that would be hailed as
the consummation of all previous Dispensations, and initiate a new cycle in the religious history of
Swift and severe persecution, launched by the organised forces of Church and State in Iran, precipitated His
arrest, His exile to the mountains of Adhírbáyján, His imprisonment in the fortresses of Máh-Kú and Chihríq,
and His execution, in July, 1850, by a firing squad in the public square of Tabríz. No less than twenty
thousand of his followers were put to death with barbarous cruelty.
Mírzá Husayn-’Alí, surnamed Bahá’u'lláh (the Glory of God), a native of Mázindarán, Whose advent the Báb
had foretold,was imprisoned in Tihrán, was banished, in 1852, to Baghdád, and then to Constantinople and
Adrianople, and finally to the prison city of ‘Akká, where He remained incarcerated for twenty-four years,
and in whose neighborhood He passed away in 1892. In the course of His banishment, He formulated in
over a hundred volumes, the principles of His Faith.
Traditions and beliefs
Like Christianity, Bahá’ís believe in one God and that Jesus is His Son. Like Islam, Bahá’ís believe that God
has sent many prophets, including Jesus and Muhammad. Bahá’ís have no priests, ministers or prayer
leaders, and have very little public ritual. Daily private prayer and study are essential parts of individual
Bahá’í life, and the Bahá’í community meets regularly for worship and consultation.
The primary belief is in the oneness of the human race. The Bahá’í goal is lasting world peace and unity
which Bahá’ís believe can be reached only when the barriers of prejudice – from gender imbalance to racism
- have been broken.
Bahá’ís believe all humans are equal, part of God’s creation and on a spiritual journey which begins in the
womb, continues throughout life and goes on after death. There is no concept of “heaven” or “hell” – at
least, not as places. To Bahá’ís,“heaven” is closeness to God and “hell” is distance from God. In this life, we
make choices which bring us closer to God: developing honesty, generosity, justice in our dealings with
others, and other spiritual qualities.
Like people of all religions, Bahá’ís believe that actions in this life prepare us for the next. Bahá’ís pray and
meditate, hold an annual fast, and study the Bahá’í writings. The Bahá’í teachings make clear that work
done in the spirit of service is equivalent to worship. This practical expression of the Bahá’í Faith takes
many forms. There are Bahá’í social and economic development projects around the world – schools,
village literacy projects, healthcare, and the development of village democracies. All work done in service
to others, Bahá’ís believe, takes us closer to God.
After death, Bahá’ís believe that the journey towards God continues – and, if we use our time in this life
well, we will already have made progress in this journey. Bahá’ís do not believe that non-believers will not
reach God, but they will not have come as far along the way. Bahá’ís believe that in the end, however, we
are all dependent on God’s mercy.
Bahá’u'lláh’s main message was that the earth is truly one country, and that lasting peace will be impossible
until we really live with this in our hearts and minds. Bahá’ís regard world peace as being not just desirable,
but inevitable. However Bahá’ís are not pacifists. The religion took no stance on the Iraq war, for example
or any other conflict. It takes no sides in the political controversies of the day. Nor do Bahá’ís have any
quarrel with the other great religions. Bahá’ís believe that all the religions come from one divine source:
God. Bahá’I followers believe that they are parts of a single historical process taking humankind from its
beginnings to the global civilisation that Bahá’ís believe will be the inevitable development in human life.
Bahá’í houses of worship hold ceremonies which include readings from sacred texts, prayers, meditations
and choral music. At certain times, fasting is also practiced. The Faith has no clergy or sacraments. There is
no equivalent of the Sabbath for Bahá’ís, The Nineteen Day Feast would be the closest approximation. As
the name implies, this observance occurs every 19th day.
The Bahá’í community believes that in offering service to humanity one is worshipping God, however there
is still a very strong emphasis on the need for community worship and Bahá’í communities hold regular
devotional meetings that are open to people from all faith communities.
As already has been said, there are few rituals in the Bahá’í Faith:
· The obligatory daily prayer.
· At funerals, the recitation of a special Prayer for the Dead.
· A simple marriage vow.
Holy Days and Celebrations
- Naw-Rúz The New Year, celebrated on the first day of spring (March 21st)
- Ayyám-i-Ha 26 February – 1 March. Days in which followers should offer hospitality, gift-giving and kindness
- Fasting 2 – 21 March. Fasting is required from sunrise to sunset. This occurs during the last calendar month of the Bahá’í year
- Ridván 21 April – 2 May. It marks the time that the Bahá’u'lláh spent in the garden of Ridván, just before he announced that he was the prophet heralded by the Báb
- Bahá’u'lláh’s public declaration of His mission April 21, 29, and May 2
- Báb’s declaration of His mission 23 May
- Ascension of Bahá’u'lláh 3am, on the 29th May
- Martyrdom of the Báb 9 July
- Birth of the Báb 20 October
- Birth of Bahá’u'lláh 12 November
- The day of the Covenant 26 November
- The Passing of Abdu’l-Bahá 28th November