Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Eastern Religions » Baha'i

The Baha'i Faith is a comparatively young world religion that teaches the oneness of God and the essential harmony of religion.

While originating in the Middle East, and sharing an early history with Islam, the religion has grown considerably, and developed into something that could not reasonably be considered one of the Abrahamic religions, nor is it pagan in nature. For this reason, while it is not a perfect fit amongst the Eastern religions, we have chosen to list it here for the purposes of categorization.

With a presence in most of the countries of the world, the largest Baha'i communities are in South Asia, Africa, Latin America, and in some of the islands of the Pacific. Some villages and areas are almost completely Baha'i.

The Baha'i scriptures speak to most areas of human life, including social ethics, issues of race, feminism, economics, legal matters, and global government, the idea being that religion should be the glasses through which the adherent of the Baha'i faith views the world.

Because of its belief in the oneness of religion, some religious scholars have identified the Baha'i faith as being an eclectic or syncretic religion, or one that gathers together the best aspects of other religions. Baha'is believe that all religion springs from the same spiritual source so, to the Baha'i, all religions can be expected to contain elements of one another, including the Baha'i faith.

The Baha'i faith began about a century and a half ago in Persia, centered in modern-day Iran. Its origins were in an Iranian merchant named Bab, who founded a religious movement that became known as the Babi religion in the 1840s. Bab preached that God would soon send a prophet in the same way of Jesus or Muhammad.

A Persian leader by the name of Baha'u'llah became a follower of Bab.

The Babi religion soon caused turmoil in Iran, and Bab, along with thousands of his followers, were executed by Iranian authorities, and Baha'u'llah was imprisoned and then exiled in 1853.

While in Baghdad in 1863, he claimed to be the prophet who was foretold by Bab, becoming the founder of the Baha'i faith, his followers believing him to be the fulfillment of the eschatological expectations of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other major religions.

He experienced a series of exiles that eventually led to his imprisonment by Ottoman authorities in the prison city of Acre, in what is now Israel, where he remained until his death in 1892.

His son, Abdu'l-Baha, became leader of the Baha'i community and the authorized interpreter of his teachings. Freed from his own imprisonment in 1909, Abdu'l-Baha traveled to Egypt, Europe, and North America, founding Baha'i communities in each of these regions.

Upon his death in 1921, his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, became the leader of the Baha'i faith. He died in 1957 without naming a successor, and the Universal House of Justice became the governing body of the Baha'i faith, now headquartered in the Haifa-Akka area of Israel.

The foundations of the Baha'i faith are derived from the writings and teachings of Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi, while the Universal House of Justice is empowered to decide in any matters not clearly covered in their writings.

Baha'i literature has been translated into all of the major languages of the world, and many of the minor languages

Baha'i scriptures describe a single, personal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, imperishable, and inaccessible God who is the creator of everything. The existence of God and the universe are believed to be eternal. Baha'i teachings hold that God is too great for human minds to comprehend or accurately imagine, as the human mind cannot comprehend the infinite.

Western and Eastern religions differ from one another because they are viewing absolute reality from different viewpoints or perspectives. In his writings, Baha'u'llah takes the concepts of both Western and Eastern religions and asserts that those who hold to these views are both right and wrong. They are wrong if they insist that these views are the absolute truth about the essence of the highest reality, but they are right in that these views do express the truth from a limited viewpoint, which is all that human beings can comprehend.

Baha'i writings hold that human beings possess a rational soul, giving mankind the capacity to recognize God's status and humanity's relationship with its creator. Every person has a duty to recognize God through his messengers, and to conform to their teachings, to serve humanity, and to attend to regular prayer and spiritual practices. These bring us closer to God. Upon death, the soul passes into the next world.

The Baha'i faith is the focus of topics in this category.

 

 

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