Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult. George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993. Pages 32-33.
(Bahaism). Followers of MIRZA ALI MUHAMMAD.
(1844 -1921), son of Baha' Ullah (Mirza Husayn Ali) and the head of BAHAISM till 1921. During Abdu'l's reign, Bahaism was brought to the United States.
The movement known presently as Bahá'í was born in the nineteenth century. ISLAM was in need of reform, and Muslims had been long awaiting the coming of a prophet whom ALLAH would raise up to enact it. In 1844 MIRZA ALI MUHAMMED (1819-50) claimed for himself the title Bab, or the one who would herald the coming of the prophet. Mirza Ali gained a considerable group of followers, who were referred to as BABISTS. His heralding mission came to a sudden end, however, in 1850 when he was executed by religious zealots called mujtahids, who were unreceptive to his break from Islam.
One follower, MIRZA HUSAYN ALI (1817-92), known also as Baha' U'llah, became convinced that he was the very prophet of whom Mirza Ali had spoken. However, it was not until 1863 that Baha' U'llah announced that he was the long-awaited MADHI, [sic. -J.W.] or "him whom God should manifest." Immediately he began to organize the teachings of the new movement, which he led until his death in 1892.
Many of the teachings and beliefs of Bahá'í are contained in the more than one hundred literary contributions of Baha' U'llah, including such titles as al-Kitab al-Aqdas
(The Most Holy Book
), which contains the laws governing Bahá'í; Ketab-e Iqan
(The Book of Certitude
); The Hidden Words
; and The Seven Valleys.
Eventually the writings of Baha' U'llah were elevated to the level of inspired sacred text by Bahá'í devotees.
Baha' U'llah's son, ABDU'L BAHA (1844-1921), assumed leadership of the group after his father's death. It was during Abdu'l's reign that Bahá'í was brought to the United States in 1893, the year of the famed Chicago World's Fair. Abdu'l proved to be an outstanding interpreter of his father's teachings, and Bahá'í became solidified into an established movement under Abdu'l's tenure. A $2.5 million temple was built by him in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, the U.S. headquarters for the movement.
After the death of Abdu'l Baha in 1921, SHOGHI EFFENDI (d. 1953), Abdul's grandson, became the new leader. Shoghi appointed the Hands of the Cause of God as an institution that advises and guides the movement.
The supreme governing body of Bahá'í is the Universal House of Justice, which acts as the legislative and executive governing body seeking to promote and apply the laws of Baha' U'llah.
Bahá'í utilizes a unique calendar revolving around the key dates in the lives of Mirza Ali Muhammad and Baha' U'llah. The year begins on March 21, which is considered to be a holy day. Other holy days include: April 21, 29, and May 2 Baha' U'llah's calling and mission; May 23 the call of Bab; November 12 the birth of Baha' U'llah; October 20 the birth of Bab; May 29 the death of Baha' U'llah; and July 9 the martyrdom of Bab. Bab established a calendar of nineteen months of nineteen days each, allowing for four intercalary days (five in leap years).
To become a member of Bahá'í, one must profess a belief in the teachings of Baha' U'llah.
There are no SACRAMENTS or rituals and no professional clergy. Members are expected to pray daily; fast nineteen days per year; observe the holy days; make at least one pilgrimage during their lifetime to Haifa, Israel, the location of the world headquarters for the movement; and abstain from alcohol and refrain from all substance abuse.
The temple in Wilmette is constructed with the numeral nine as the central architectural motif. Nine is the Bahá'í symbol of unity and stands for the nine manifestations Moses, BUDDHA, Zoroaster, CONFUCIUS, Jesus Christ, MUHAMMAD, HARE KRISHNA, Bab, and Baha' U'llah whom God has raised up throughout the centuries. There are nine sides to the building, nine pillars, nine arches, nine gates and nine fountains.
Local groups, called spiritual assemblies, meet in major cities all over the world. These are governed by a National Spiritual Assembly comprised of nine members. There are presently close to 24,000 assemblies and 133 national assemblies in the United States. Members come from all walks of life and from every nationality and race. Currently, there are over five million members of the Bahá'í faith in over 205 countries worldwide. Bahá'í temples are situated in cities throughout the world. The writings of Baha' U'llah have been translated into hundreds of languages.
"Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one Branch." So stated Bahá'í's founder. In keeping with this basic tenet, Bahá'í teaches that all religions contain a degree of truth and that this should warrant the incentive to unite them into a world religion comprised of universal principles. 'The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens," is another oft-quoted slogan of the movement capturing the essence of its basic thrust toward universalism.
This ideal is contrary to traditional CHRISTIANITY and, ironically, to Bahá'í's parent, Islam. Christianity, for example, teaches that the sole means for unity and peace in the world lies in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." In keeping with these words, the creeds of Christendom have always confessed that the one true Faith to the exclusion of all others is Christianity; "Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith" (Athanasian Creed, Appendix 1). It is this exclusivism that furnishes Christianity with its missionary motive. This is similarly true of Islam, the mother of Bahá'í ("There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet"). Muslims generally regard Bahá'í as being a heretical SECT chiefly because it has substituted a new prophet (Baha' U'llah) for Muhammad, much the same way that Christianity rejects Mormonism, for example, as a heretical movement because its founder and prophet, JOSEPH SMITH, claimed supernatural revelation in addition to the revealed Word of God in the BIBLE. Therefore, the noble goal of unity among the religions of the world fails at the outset. By definition, it is impossible. Christianity ceases to be Christianity when it accepts as legitimate any means of salvation outside of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Islam ceases to be Islam, etc. Bahá'í's chief tenet of unity among all faiths is an idealistic goal that can never be realized.
A second stark contrast to traditional Christianity is the Bahá'í belief that the great religious teachers in history are "manifestations" of God. For Christianity, Jesus is confessed as the INCARNATION of God. This "fleshing" of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is rejected by the proponents of the Bahá'í faith, who claim that God simply cannot be identified in the flesh of Jesus or any other great religious leader.
Other principles of Bahá'í include the advocacy of egalitarianism between the sexes, a universal language, a world confederacy of nations, the establishment of world peace, and the complete and total freedom for study and independent investigation of the world.
Religious activities center around the calendar (see above), and the rising and setting of the sun begins and ends each day in the Bahá'í faith. The authoritative writings of Bahá'í are the sacred canons of Baha' U'IIah and Shoghi Effendi.