The Bahá’í Faith was established in 1863 in Iran by Baháʹuʹlláh (which means Glory of God in Arabic). This religion originates from an earlier, smaller faith called Bábísm. Bábísm was founded by Ali-Muhammed or “Báb”, and foretold of the mission of a prophet who would follow Muhammed - Baháʹuʹlláh proclaimed himself as this prophet and subsequently The Bahá’í Faith was born.
Followers of the Bahá’í Faith are known as Bahá’ís and there are currently between 5 and 7 million Bahá’ís worldwide. It is one of the world’s youngest major religions. Followers of The Bahá’í Faith reside predominantly in Iran, South America and parts of Africa, but because of significant travel teaching efforts, which have served to increase awareness, the religion is represented in almost every country across the world.
A prominent belief of the Bahá’í Faith is the idea of a single all-powerful God; however, the religion teaches that God is revealed through “manifestations of God” or prophets. These prophets are considered to be the founders of other major religions, such as; Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and Moses. Similarly, all major religions are thought to be interrelated in purpose, differing only through their interpretations and cultural practices, which have derived from the personalities and minds of the prophet whom has passed on the teachings.
Prophets are believed to have been sent to reflect the prevailing spirit of the times, allowing them to relevantly impart knowledge to the audience of the day. Although Baháʹuʹlláh proclaimed himself as the most recent prophet, he did not believe he was to be the last, asserting that God would send another messenger after 1,000 years. He declared that the next prophet will be better placed to communicate in the age in which he manifests.
The Bahá’í Faith was originally seen as a division of Islam, but the movement has long since contended that it has become a distinct religion with it’s own history, scriptures and traditions. It is also now considered by most experts in the field to be an established and well represented faith. Generally, it is thought that the relationship between shi’a Islam and the Bahá’í Faith is analogous to the context under which Christianity was established through Judaism. However, the Bahá’í Faith is not recognised by Muslim clergy and this has been the source of conflict, reflected in persecution of the faith in many regions, particularly Iran.
Bahá’í writings describe human beings as “rational souls” which live forever and with a unique capacity to discover the realities of things. The writings go on to teach that there was a time when these realities: ‘were unknown, preserved mysteries and hidden secrets; the rational soul gradually discovered them and brought them out of the plane of the invisible and the hidden, into the realm of the visible.”
In this faith it is considered that, rather than physical realms or destinations, heaven and hell are reflections of how near or close one is to God and that closeness to God is achieved through regular prayer, obedience, spiritual practice and service to humanity. Followers of Bahá’í seek to develop their own spiritual and intellectual growth through practices such as mediation and prayer, and they encourage others to do the same in order that society may eventually reach a tipping point and invoke a transformation in civilisation and humanity.
In addition to a strong focus on the unity of mankind, the unison of religion and the establishment of a new world order, other key beliefs of the Bahá’í Faith include the rejection of notions such as racism, sexism and nationalism.
For such a young religion, The Bahá’í Faith has many impressive temples across the world and, because of it’s unique approach to interrelated religion, it is not unusual to see representations of major prophets from other religions in their architecture.
For further information about The Bahá’í Faith, visit their website here.