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The Baha'i Faith is one of the fastest growing religions on earth. Since its founding in the later half of the 1800's by a Persian nobleman named, Baha'u'llah, it has already grown to more than 5 million adherents in over 205 countries and territories. And while it is still numerically small compared to the other major religions, only Christianity is more wide spread. As will be further explained below, the Baha'i Faith teaches the "Oneness of GOD"; the "Oneness of Religion"; the "Oneness of Humanity"; and the "Equality of Men & Women".
There are two significant figures in the formation of the Baha'i Faith: "The Bab" (or "The Gate" in English) and Baha'u'llah. Here is a brief biographical sketch of each.
In the Baha'i Faith, the Bab played a similar role to Baha'u'llah, as John the Baptist played towards Jesus in the early days of Jesus' ministry. He was the "forerunner" who set the stage for the main messenger. Even as a child he was known for his kind, giving nature, piety, wisdom, integrity and nobleness of character. And as an adult he was particularly known for his generosity to the poor. In 1844, the Bab announced that his divine mission was to proclaim the imminent arrival of new Messenger from GOD who would be far greater than himself, and who would share a new universal spiritual teaching that would gradually usher in a New Age of peace and abundance. The Bab's announcement and his accompanying spiritual message was accepted with great enthusiasm by so many of his fellow Persians, that the established orthodox religious leaders felt that the Bab threatened their own power and influence over the people.
Eventually, he was arrested several times and like John the Baptist, was eventually sentenced to execution. On July 9th, 1850, when the jailers came to his prison cell to take him to face the firing squad, he told them that "no earthly power" could silence him until he completed his mission. They tied him and a companion against a wall in a square, and ordered 250 soldiers to fire their guns at them. 10,000 onlookers crowded the rooftops and houses that overlooked the square. After the smoke cleared the Bab was nowhere to be seen and the companion was untouched except that the ropes which had bound him were now shot to shreds. Astonished, the jailers found the Bab back in his prison cell giving his final instructions to one of his followers. This time the Bab said to them, "Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention." So, again the Bab and his companion were brought out for execution. But because the original 250 soldiers refused to fire upon them a second time, 250 new soldiers were brought in as the new firing squad. This time, after they fired their guns, the bodies of the Bab and his companion were completely shattered, and their fragmented bones and flesh fallen into an indistinguishable heap. But, miraculously, their faces were untouched. Thus, the Bab completed his work.
Baha'u'llah was born into a nobleman's family in Persia (modern day Iran) on November 12, 1817. In October of 1835 he married Asiyih Khanum, the daughter of another nobleman and together they had 3 children. When it came time for him to begin the ministerial position in government that was open to him, he declined it in order to dedicate his life to helping the poor, thus eventually earning the appellation, "Father of the Poor." His life went well until he became a follower of the unorthodox religious leader named, "The Bab", (or "The Gate" in English). As has been mentioned, the established religious authorities disapproved of "The Bab's" new spiritual teachings and eventually executed him and persecuted his followers, including Baha'u'llah. But, because Baha'u'llah was well respected in his community, the religious authorities hesitated to execute him and instead imprisoned him in a dungeon in Tehran where they assumed he would die under the harsh conditions. Instead, Baha'u'llah began receiving divine visions and spiritual revelations.
After four months he was released and he and his family were banished from their native land, which began a forty year period of exile, persecution and imprisonment. First he went to Bagdad in neighboring Iraq, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. Many people in Bagdad became his respected admirers and/or followers, while others persecuted him because of his unorthodox religious teachings on the oneness of GOD, the oneness of religions, and the oneness of humanity. The Persian authorities who feared a revival of his following in their own empire, convinced the Ottoman Empire to exile him still further away than Bagdad. Before he left on this next part of his journey of exile, he revealed to his closest followers that he was the "Promised One", the new messenger of GOD that the Bab had prophesied would come.
The Ottoman authorities moved him to Constantinople, then to Adrianople. In each of these localities his persecutors would pressure the local authorities to have him removed from their region so he would not pollute people with his teachings on universal kindness. Finally in 1868 he and his family were moved to the penal city of Acre on the coast of what was then Ottoman Palestine, where they were imprisoned. At first persecuted in Acre, because of their unorthodox religious beliefs, gradually he and his family came to be respected and admired by many of his fellow citizens of Acre. They were released from prison, but continued to be restrained under house arrest. And it was here that he wrote most of his important spiritual works which laid the ground work for the Baha'i Faith and where he finally died on the 29th of May 1892.
• "The Oneness of GOD":
• The teaching that even though people of different religions often don't realize it, everyone in reality is worshiping the same GOD;
• "The Oneness of Religion":
• That all religions are from this same GOD and should be equally respected and honored;
• And that each of the various founders of the major world religions, including Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, & Muhammad, were genuine messengers of GOD and should be honored and revered;
• "The Oneness of Humanity":
• That all people are equally the children of GOD and that no one should harbor any racial, caste, class, or religious prejudice;
• "The Equality of Men & Women":
• That women and men are completely equal intellectually & spiritually and should have equal rights in all things.
• Pure motives
• Practicing what we preach, (while preferring kind, helpful deeds over words).
• Living a life of selfless service to humanity. In fact, Baha'u'llah taught that if we work to help humanity, (who after all are the children of GOD), in all that we do, while dedicating our work to GOD, then the work itself becomes a form of worship ("Work is Worship").
• Gossip and backbiting
• Alcoholic drinks
• Drug abuse
• Universal education for everyone;
• The importance of achieving the harmony of science and religion, in which all clearly proven scientific truths are accepted;
• Achieving a sustainable balance between nature and technology;
• The importance of working for social justice;
• The importance of reducing the extremes of wealth and poverty throughout the world;
• The eventual creation of a planetary wide democratic government where all people share in a universal citizenship and have an equal voice.
Members of the Baha'i Faith believe that kind, loving, happy, spiritually focused families are the underlying foundation necessary for a peaceful world of universal friendship and equality. Interracial marriages are honored and encouraged; women are free to pursue careers that interest them; men are expected to share in household duties and child-rearing; and a great emphasis is placed on a deeply caring, faithful, mutually supportive, tender love between husband & wife. The children are considered a sacred gift from GOD, and great importance is placed on raising children in a loving and responsible manner with kind, wise parenting and the nurturing of family values. Both intellectual and spiritual education are strongly valued, and children are taught to pray and meditate from an early age, as well as to seek truth on their own while gradually developing careful analytical skills. And as with most world religions, mothers and fathers honor their own parents, while simultaneously teaching their own children to respect and honor them.
There are no clergy in their church and church decisions are made in a democratic style based on in depth mutual consultation. Church services consist of sacred readings from different religions;
While Baha'is honor the sacred texts of all religions, they also have their own sacred texts which are written primarily by their founder, Baha'u'llah, as well as Baha'u'llah's son and great-grandson.
Baha'u'llah's Principle Book:
Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book)
The Kitab-i-Aqdas is an outline of the basic rules and principles that followers of the Baha'i Faith are expected to follow, as well as the basic Baha'i administrative plans.
Copyright 2014 Bill Gaum, All Rights Reserved