Siyyid ‘Alí Muhammád was born in 1819 and became known as “The Báb,” or, the Gate. He declared on 23 May 1844 that he was the forerunner of the Promised One from God. Named, Mirza Husayn ‘Alí, Bahá’u’lláh (‘The Glory of God’) announced, in 1863, that He was the Messenger of God for this age and the Promised One of all religions.
Bahá’u’lláh suffered 40 years of exile and imprisonment, having been accused of plotting against the Shah. He was exiled from Iran to Akká near Haifa, Israel, where he died in 1892, aged 75. Today the Qiblih (point of adoration) is Bahá’u’lláh’s shrine near Akká and all are encouraged to make at least one pilgrimage to it.
Bahá’u’lláh appointed His eldest son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘The Servant of Bahá’, as the Interpreter of his teachings and the centre of his covenant with all mankind. On his death, in 1921, leadership passed to Abdu’l-Bahá’s grandson, Shoghi Effendi. Today Bahá’ís have a Universal House of Justice on Mt. Carmel, which is the modern World Centre of the Faith. It was first elected in 1963 and since then at five-yearly intervals. Democratic institutions are elected annually at national and local level. There are such assemblies in over 125 countries.
On the local level, a nine-member team is elected to serve as a Local Spiritual Assembly. Although officials are not able to give exact figures, a conservative estimate is that there are over five million followers in more than 160 countries.
The Bahá’ís anticipate that out of the chaos of a possible global catastrophe a new ‘Golden Age’ will dawn. It will be the Bahá’ís who will be prepared to offer a unique method of administration to the peoples of this new order. At present they evangelise vigorously through home groups (fireside chats) and teachers (called pioneers) going out to new areas to fulfil their Founder’s instructions. They meet once every 19 days for worship and consultation but many groups also hold gatherings that are more frequent, as well as the annual Fast that ends on their New Year’s Day.
Bahá’ís believe that their faith is one of the world religions and they teach that all other world religions are from God. Jesus is seen as one of the Manifestations of God and although each major religion is part of the ultimate Truth, no human being will ever know the whole of God’s revelation as it is beyond our comprehension.
The attributes of God are revealed to mankind but the very essence of God will always be unknowable.
“To every discerning and illuminated heart it is evident that God, the Unknowable Essence, the Divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress.” – Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.113.
Everything is Relative
Everything is relative and therefore everything is changing. The revealed truth for this millennium may not apply to the next. This means that there can be a change in the social teachings of the past should it become necessary.
Many Prophets are accepted by the Bahá’ís including Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed. These Messengers are one in spirit, but Bahá’u’lláh is regarded as being the Manifestation of God for this day.
Bahá’ís believe that the spiritual truth of Christ was built on by Mohammed and, in turn, by Bahá’u’lláh. As Saint Paul gave new meaning to many passages in the Old Testament, so the Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh brought a new interpretation to the words of Christ recorded in the Gospels.
As many other groups, they will happily believe the opposite if it suits them, and it does when they want to show that Christ actually foretold the coming of Bahá’u’lláh.
The fact that they believe that Christ was not God in the flesh can be seen from the clear statement,
God cannot incarnate Himself – Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.113.
Faith or Works?
It is clear from the following quotation that, to them, salvation is a matter of works as well as grace.
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth everyone who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. – Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p.19
Oneness of God.
Oneness of all religion.
Oneness of humankind – we are all brothers and sister in the same human family.
Elimination of prejudice of all kinds.
Individual search after truth.
Universal auxiliary language – all know along with mother tongue.
Equality of men and women.
Harmony of science and religion – both are aspects of truth and cannot contradict each other.
Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty.
Protection of cultural diversity.
We use the Writings of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi (the Guardian of the Faith), though the latter are not regarded as “Scripture.” There are over 100 volumes of Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings of which the Kitáb-I-Aqdas (the Most Holy Book) is regarded as the “mother book” of our religion. – Letter from the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Skye and Lochalsh
Fuller notes are available in booklet form.