What do Bahá’í believe?
Creating unity worldwide is of fundamental importance in the Bahá’í Faith. Once unity is a reality, world peace will follow.
They believe that there has only ever been one religion and one God, even though people have called Him by different names.
Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammad are all regarded as messengers of God. They promised the coming of another great messenger who would bring peace to the world. To Bahá’ís, that messenger is Bahá’u’lláh – the founder of their faith.
Key Bahá’í beliefs were set out in various talks given by one of Bahá’u’lláh’s successors, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. These beliefs include:
- One god
- Unity of mankind
- Harmony of science and religion
- Equality of opportunity for men and women
- Elimination of all prejudice
- Universal compulsory education
- Abolition of extremities of poverty and wealth
- Establishment of a world government
- Progressive revelation
Bahá’ís strive to fulfil their personal potential by fostering a close relationship with God. According to Bahá’í thinking, God transcends gender with an essence that is infinite and unknowable.
Bahá’ís are proud of the fact that their religion has survived for over 150 years without dividing into any distinct traditions or sects. They believe their religion will remain united forever.
How Bahá’í developed
The Bahá’í Faith was established in Persia (now Iran) on 23 May 1844 as a new religion, distinct from the Shi’a tradition of Islam already established there.
In the last five decades, the Bahá’í Faith has expanded significantly across the world – despite the fact that Bahá’ís are not allowed to proselytise. Today, the Bahá’í Faith is the world’s second most widespread religion after Christianity (source: Encyclopaedia Britannica).
The development of the faith can be traced through the lives of four key people:
Originally known as Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, the Báb was born in Shiraz, Persia, in 1819 and was a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In 1844, he declared himself God’s messenger and proclaimed the coming of Greater One, who would bring a new age of civilisation based on world peace.
In 1863, Bahá’u’lláh declared himself to be the One promised by the Báb. His mission fulfilled the promises made by the messengers from other religions. He died in Akka in 1892 and was buried at nearby Bahji, now the Bahá’í Faith ’s most sacred shrine.
As Bahá’u’lláh’s son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was appointed in his father’s will as the authorised interpreter of Bahá’í teachings. Born in 1844, he died in Haifa in 1921.
Following ‘Abdu’l-Bahá death, his grandson, Shoghi Effendi became Guardian of the Faith, with the authority to interpret the scriptures. He died in 1957. Six years later, the Universal House of Justice – now based in at the Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa – became the Bahá’í Faith ’s guiding body.
The Bahá’í Faith has no priests or clergy, either professional or voluntary.
Local Spiritual Assemblies are the key Bahá’í organisations. Each assembly has nine members who are elected annually by secret ballot. Electioneering is strictly forbidden in the Bahá’í Faith. Assemblies decide on the affairs of the local Bahá’í community through consultation.
How Bahá’í worship
The Bahá’í Faith has no set worship services or priests. Most Bahá’í meetings take place in people’s homes or in Bahá’í centres. There are seven Bahá’í houses of worship worldwide, and followers of all religions are invited to pray there.
Bahá’ís are obliged to say one of three daily prayers known as the ‘obligatory prayers’. They vary in length and must be recited in different ways. In addition, Bahá’ís are expected to read from the scriptures every morning and evening. There are Bahá’í prayers for all kinds of occasion and purpose including marriage, death, assistance, meetings and spiritual growth.
While praying, Bahá’ís turn towards Bahji in Israel, the burial place of Bahá’u’lláh.
Bahá’ís are not governed by specific dietary regulations.
Consuming alcohol or habit-forming drugs is strictly forbidden.
During the Bahá’í month of ‘Alá (2-21 March), Bahá’ís abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.