Bahá’í

The Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.

Introduction

Bahá’u’lláh was the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith that began on 23rd May 1844 when a young man called the Báb revealed Himself as a Divine Educator. He said that His mission was to awaken the hearts and souls of the people to prepare them for the coming of The Promised One. Bahá’u’lláh was that Promised One.

Bahá’u’lláh taught that there is one God, that all religions are from that one God, and that there is one human family with rich diversity. Bahá’ís are working towards the unification of the human family and the building of a peaceful, global society. Among the principles which the Bahá’í Faith promotes as vital to the achievement of this goal are:

  • the abandonment of all forms of prejudice
  • the achievement of full equality between women and men
  • recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth
  • the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth
  • the realisation of universal education
  • the responsibility of each person to independently search for truth
  • the establishment of a global commonwealth of nations
  • recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge

Bahá’u’lláh taught that each human being is “a mine rich in gems” unknown even to the owner, let alone to others, and inexhaustible in its wealth. The purpose of life is to develop spiritual qualities both for one’s own life and for the service of humanity. Life in this world, as Bahá’u’lláh presents it, is like the life of a child in the womb of its mother: the moral, intellectual, and spiritual powers which a human being develops here, with the help of God, will be the “limbs” and “organs” needed for the soul’s progress in the worlds beyond this earthly one.

Bahá’u’lláh wrote over one hundred volumes of writings, many of which have been translated into other languages. At the time of His death in 1892, he left instructions in his will and testament appointing his son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the one authorised interpreter of the Bahá’í teachings and the person to whom the Bahá’ís could turn for further understanding. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá died in 1921, he left instructions in his will and testament appointing his grandson, Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith. There are many writings from these central figures of the Bahá’í Faith which further expand and explain Bahá’u’lláh’s vision. In 1957 the Guardian passed away in London, and his remains are buried in New Southgate Cemetery. Following his death, in 1963, the nine members of the first Universal House of Justice were elected according to Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings.

The Bahá’í World Centre is in Haifa Israel, and is a most beautiful complex including the Shrine of the Báb, and the seat of the Universal House of Justice and extensive formal gardens visited by many throughout each year.

The Bahá’í Faith teaches that true religion promotes unity, and that unity is the fundamental prerequisite for the achievement of global peace. “The well-being of mankind,” Bahá’u’lláh said, “its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”

Marriage

In a Bahá’í marriage ceremony, the bride and groom each say, in front of witnesses, “We will all, verily, abide by the will of God.” Usually the couple will choose prayers and readings and will have their friends and relatives share in the ceremony.

Death

Bahá’í law states that the body should be buried within one hour’s travelling distance from the place of death. Cremation is forbidden as it breaks the natural cycle and it is perceived that the decomposition of the body in such a manner is too abrupt for the soul.

A programme of prayers and passages from the holy books may be chosen for a Baha’i funeral, and there is also a special prayer which should be recited.

Worship

The Bahá’ís practise daily prayer, meditation, and reading the Bahá’í sacred writings. There is a Bahá’í calendar, which consists of nineteen months of nineteen days each. On the first day of each Bahá’í month, Bahá’ís gather to pray, read the writings, discuss community business, socialise and enjoy refreshments. These meetings are called Nineteen Day Feasts. The Bahá’í calendar also includes four (in leap years, five) Intercalary Days, which is a time for hospitality, giving gifts, preparing for the forthcoming period of Fasting. All work performed in the spirit of service is considered worship.

Diet

There are no specific dietary requirements for Baha’is but vegetarianism is recommended by the Baha’i faith. Alcohol is strictly forbidden whilst smoking is discouraged.

Festivals

21st March: Naw-Rúz – Bahá’í New Year.

21st April – 2nd May: Ridván Festival – A twelve day festival commemorating Bahá’u’lláh’s first declaration of His mission, and celebrated on the following three holy days.

21st April: The first day of Ridván
29th April: The ninth day of Ridván
2nd May: The twelfth day of Ridván
23rd May: Declaration of the Báb – commemorating the Báb’s declaration of His mission.

29th May: Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh
9th July: Martyrdom of the Báb
20th October: Birthday of the Báb
12th November: Birthday of Bahá’u’lláh
26th November: Day of the Covenant – celebrating the covenant of Bahá’u’lláh with humanity.

28th November: Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
25th February – 1st March: Intercalary Days – a time of hospitality and gift giving.

2nd March – 20th March: Period of fasting – from dawn to sunset each day.

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