Center for Faith and Vocation

Baha'i

History

The Baha'i Faith was started in Persia (present-day Iran) in 1844. Siyyid Ali-Muhammad was 25 years old when he announced that God sent him to prepare humanity for a new age. He predicted that another messenger that was greater than he was would be coming. He took on the title of "The Bab," which means Gate in Arabic. His followers were called Babis. Until he was executed in Tabriz, Iran in 1850, The Bab's teaching spread quickly, but he was viewed by Muslims in the region as a heretic.

Another figure, Baha'u'llah, is considered the founder of the Baha'i religion. His name means "Glory of God" in Arabic. He was a member of a royal family, but he turned away from his money and position to dedicate himself to his religion. He was imprisoned for his beliefs, and while he was in prison he received a Revelation that he was the messenger that The Bab had promised his people. When he announced that he was the messenger that the people had been waiting for, the religion began to be known as the Baha'i Faith. The Baha'i religion believes that Baha'u'llah came after other messengers of God that included Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and the Bab. Baha'u'llah authored religious writings, which included his teachings, and the laws of the Baha'i faith, and which are dear to the Baha'i community. Baha'u'llah also wrote letters to the rulers of his time to tell them of himself and the revelation that came to him.

Baha'u'llah named his son, Abdu'l-Baha to be the head of the religion and the authorized interpreter of Baha'u'llah's teachings. In 1893, the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago provided an opportunity for the Baha'i to spread their beliefs in North America. Abdu'l-Baha was also imprisoned for some time, but after he was released he traveled through Europe and North America preaching. Before Abdu'l-Baha died, he appointed his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i faith. In 1927 the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States was formed. It wrote the Declaration of Trust and Bylaws, which is the document that all the Baha'i locations use as their model.

In 1957, Shogi Effendi died. When he passed away, the line of leaders in the Baha'i faith that were of the same family ended. The group that leads the Baha'i faith all over the world is the Universal House of Justice. Members of this group are elected every five years. Presently, the Baha'i community has over five million members from many different backgrounds. There are Baha'i communities in over 230 countries.

The core beliefs of the Baha'i faith include the following1:

  • The principle of the oneness of mankind is the pivot around which all the teachings of Baha'u'llah revolve.
  • Humanity, after a long and turbulent adolescence, is at last reaching a stage of maturity in which unity in a global and just society finally can be established.
  • To this end, the Baha'i faith prescribes laws of personal morality and behavior, as well as social laws and principles, to establish the oneness of humanity.

Baha'is believe that the purpose of this life is to worship God, to be virtuous and to work toward the oneness of mankind so that civilization can advance. The faith believes that everyone in the world was created by one God and is part of one human race. All work that anyone does in the spirit of service is a form of worship to the Baha'i faith. The Baha'i faith believes that a person's soul was created at the moment of conception. It points out that God decides that the soul will reach an afterlife. In the afterlife, the soul keeps on progressing until it attains the presence of God.

Notes

1These core beliefs are taken from the official website of Baha'is in the United States (accessed on 12/7/07): http://www.bahai.us/core-beliefs

Sources

Baha'i Topics, An Information Resource of the Baha'i International Community. http://info.bahai.org/index.html

Baha'i Faith, Religion Renewed for a Changing World.
The Official Website of the Baha'is of the United States.
http://www.bahai.us/history

Organizations

Indianapolis Baha'i Center