Read: 1992, Magazine - The Baha'is


<head>
<meta name="Author" content="Baha'i International Community">
<meta name="Title" content="1992, Magazine - The Baha'is">
<meta name="SubTitle" content="">
<meta name="SearchURL" content="http://amazon.com/">
<meta name="SearchTerm" content="1992, Magazine - The Baha'is">
<meta name="ISBN" content="">
</head>

<body>
THE MAGAZINE "THE BAHA'IS"

Founded a century and a half ago, the Baha'i Faith
is today among the fastest growing of world
religions. With more than five million followers
in at least 232 countries and dependent
territories, it has already become the second-most
widespread faith, surpassing every religion but
Christianity in its geographic reach. Baha'is
reside in more than 116,000 localities around the
world, an expansion that reflects their dedication
to the ideal of world citizenship.

The Baha'i Faith's global scope is mirrored in the
composition of its membership.

Representing a cross section of humanity,
Baha'is come from virtually every nation, ethnic
group, culture, profession and social or economic
class. More than 2,100 different ethnic and tribal
groups are represented.

Since it also forms a single community, free
of schism or factions, the Baha'i Faith comprises
what is very likely the most diverse and widespread
organized body of people on earth.

The Faith's Founder was Baha'u'llah, a
Persian nobleman from Teheran who, in the
mid-nineteenth century, gave up a princely
existence of comfort and security for a life of
persecution and deprivation.

Baha'u'llah claimed to be nothing less than
a new and independent Messenger from God. His life
work and influence parallel that of Abraham,
Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and
Muhammad. Baha'is view Baha'u'llah as the most
recent in this succession of Divine Messengers.

*********************************

"This is the Day in which God's most
excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the
Day in which His most mighty grace hath been
infused into all created things." -Baha'u'llah
****************************************


The essential message of Baha'u'llah is that
of unity. He taught that there is only one God,
that there is only one human race, and that all the
world's religions have been stages in the
revelation of God's will and purpose for humanity.
In this day, Baha'u'llah said, humanity has
collectively come of age. As foretold in all the
world's scriptures, the time has arrived for the
united of all peoples into a peaceful and
integrated global society. "The earth is but one
country, and mankind its citizens," He wrote.

The youngest of the world's independent
religions, the Faith founded by Baha'u'llah stands
out from other religions in a number of ways. It
has a unique system of global administration, with
freely elected governing councils in more than
18,000 localities.

It takes a distinctive (and sometimes
radical) approach to contemporary social problems.
The Faith's scriptures and the multifarious
activities of its membership address virtually
every important trend in the world today, from the
new thinking about cultural diversity and
environmental conservation to the decentralization
of decision-making; from a renewed commitment to a
family life and morality to the call for a "New
World Order."

The Faith's most distinctive
accomplishment by far, however, is its unity.
Unlike every other religion -- not to mention most
social and political movements -- the Baha'i Faith
has successfully resisted the perennial impulse to
break into sects and sub-groups. It has maintained
its unity despite a history as turbulent as that of
any religion of antiquity.

In the hundred years since Baha'u'llah
lived, the process of global unification for which
He called has become well-advanced. Through
historical processes, the traditional barriers of
race, class, creed and nation have steadily broken
down. The forces at work, Baha'u'llah predicted,
will eventually give birth to a universal
civilization. The principal challenge facing the
peoples of th earth is to accept the fact of their
oneness and assist in the creation of this new
world.

***********************
"The vitality of men's belief in God is dying out
in every land; nothing short of His wholesome
medicine can ever restore it."

-Baha'u'llah
*****************************


For a global society to flourish
Baha'u'llah said, it must be based on certain
fundamental principles. They include the
elimination of all forms of prejudice; full
equality between the sexes; recognition of the
essential oneness of the world's great religions;
the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth;
universal eduction; the harmony of science and
religion; a sustainable balance between nature and
technology; and the establishment of a world
federal system, based on collective security and
the oneness of humanity.

Baha'is around the world express their
commitment to these principles chiefly through
individual and community transformation. Among
other ways, commitment is reflected in the large
number of small-scale, grassroots-based social and
economic development projects that Baha'i
communities have launched in recent years.

In building a unified network of local,
national and international governing councils,
Baha'u'llah's followers have created a far-flung
and diverse worldwide community -- marked by a
distinctive pattern of life and activity -- which
offers an encouraging model for cooperation,
harmony and social action. In a world so divided
in its loyalties, this is in itself a singular
achievement.

This computer program is an attempt to tell
this story.

How many Baha'is are there?

In 1963 it is estimated that there were
about 400,00 Baha'is in the world. By 1985, it was
estimated that there were about 3,500,000 Baha'is
in the world. According to the Encyclopaedia
Britannica 1992 Book of the Year there were
5,400,000 Baha'is worldwide in 1991.

Statistics from the World Christian
Encyclopedia, which is perhaps the best-respected
work on this subject, indicate that the Baha'i
Faith is among the fastest growing of the
independent world religions. The World Christian
Encyclopedia estimated that the worldwide Baha'i
community grew at an average rate of 3.63 percent
per year during the 15 years from 1970 to 1985.

Figures reported in the 1992 Britannica
Book of the Year show the Baha'i Faith as having
significant communities in 205 countries, second
only to Christianity in its geographic spread.

Statisticians at the Baha'i World Centre
(Haifa, Israel) calculated in 1992 that the Faith
is established in 232 countries and dependent
territories.



Not a sect, an independent

religion


In the past, scholars sometimes referred
to the Baha'i Faith as a "sect" of Islam -- owing to
the fact that Its Prophet and early followers
emerged from an Islamic society.


Today, religious specialists recognize
that such a reference would be equivalent to
calling Christianity a "sect" of Judaism, or
referring to Buddhism as a "denomination" of
Hinduism.


Although Christ was indeed Jewish and
Buddha was born a Hindu. Their religious messages
were not merely re-interpretations of the parent
religions -- but went far beyond them.


In the same way, Baha'u'llah laid entirely new
spiritual foundations. His writings are
independent scripture, and His work transcends that
of a religious reformer. As historian Arnold
Toynbee noted in 1959:

"Bahaism [sic] is an independent
religion on a par with Islam,
Christianity, and the other
recognized world religions.
Bahaism is not a sect of some
other religion; it is a separate
religion, and it has the same
status as the other recognized
religions."

Kimiko Schwerin lives in a suburb of Tokyo with her
American husband John, where together they operate
a successful language school. Born in Nagasaki,
Ms. Schwerin has in many ways broken the mold for
a Japanese woman of her generation. Not only did
she marry a foreigner -- an act for which she was
once slapped in the face by a disapproving
stranger -- she is also active in a variety of
activities aimed at promoting the equality of
women.

Stanlake Kukama, who as a young man was a
regional official for the African National Congress
in South Africa, gave up politics in the 1950s to
pursue a different path towards ending apartheid in
his native land. Although he is now retired, his
goal for the last 30 years has been to assist in
the building of an integrated community of people
that could serve to demonstrate the possibility of
harmonious relations between blacks and whites in
Southern Africa.

*************************

"All men have been created to carry forward
an ever-advancing civilization."



-Baha'u'llah
*************************

Primo Pasci lives high in the Andes mountains
of Bolivia, where he grows potatoes on steep
hillside land that has been in his family for
generations. A member of the Aymara people, Mr.
Pasci has only a fourth grade education.
Nevertheless, he has helped to start a pre-school
for the children in his village, which provides an
important educational boost during their most
important developmental years. He has also led the
way in bringing a new kind of inexpensive
solar-heated greenhouse to his village, a project
which has permitted him and his neighbors to grow
a variety of fruits and vegetables -- items which do
not otherwise grow at such altitudes.

Although different in their cultural
heritages, educational backgrounds, and national
origins, Ms. Schwerin, Mr. Kukama, and Mr. Pacsi
are united by a common belief in the Baha'i
Faith -- and a commitment to its ideals.

The worldwide Baha'i community may well be
the most diverse and widespread body of people on
earth. It is also among the world's most unified
organizations, a feature that is perhaps its most
distinguishing characteristic.

Baha'is the world over come from all religions
backgrounds: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain,
Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian, animist, and
non-religious. Yet they study a common set of
sacred writings, observe a unifying code of
religious laws, and look to a single international
administrative system for continuing guidance.


***************************

"Let your vision be world-embracing, rather
than confined to your own self."


-Baha'u'llah

************************

Their sense of unity goes beyond a shared
theology. It is expressed in an abiding commitment
to a global program for moral, spiritual and social
progress that represents many of the finest ideals
of civilization.

Promoting equality of women and men is a
primary goal, as is ending racial and ethnic
strife. Encouraging the concept of economic
justice for all peoples is another major objective.
So is ensuring access to good education for all.
The community eschews all forms of superstition and
sets for its followers the goal of meeting the
highest moral standard. World peace and the
establishment of a united global commonwealth has
been and remains a distinguishing concern.

Indeed, no other world organization of
similar diversity, whether affiliated along
religious, political, or social lines, can claim a
membership as committed to a vision that is at once
so singular, coherent and universal.

The source of this vision is Baha'u'llah
(1817-1892), the Founder of the Baha'i Faith. A
Persian nobleman who spent the last 40 years of His
life as a prisoner and an exile, He authored the
equivalent of more than 100 volumes -- writings which
today form the foundation on which the worldwide
Baha'i community stands.


A Way of Life


From the earliest times, religion has been a
powerful force for personal and social
transformation. In both the lives of individual
believers, and in the distinctive communities it
has spawned, the Baha'i Faith is a dramatic
illustration of this rule.

The primary purpose of life is to know and to
worship God, and to contribute to an ever-advancing
global civilization. Baha'is seek to fulfill this
purpose in a variety of personal, family, and
community activities.

The family unit, according to Baha'u'llah, is
the foundation of human society. Kimiko Schwerin
believers, for example, that her marriage can stand
as an illustration of the oneness of all peoples.
In traditional Japanese society, marriage to a
foreigner is an unwritten taboo. Once, for
example, when she was riding on a train with her
husband in the early 1970s, a middle-aged Japanese
man walked up and abruptly slapped her in the face.


************************

"...The peoples of the world, of whatever race
or religion, derive their inspiration from one
heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God."


-Baha'u'llah

************************

"It was because I was with a 'foreigner',"
said Ms. Schwerin, who grew up in Nagasaki and now
runs an English language school with her husband in
a Tokyo suburb. "In those days, there was a strong
prejudice against international marriage. Marriage
to a foreigner was not considered decent."

"But I didn't feel embarrassed, not at all,"
Ms. Schwerin added. "I just felt sorry for the man
because of his prejudice. Because I'm a Baha'i, I
feel international marriage is an entirely right
thing to do."

The Schwerins see their experience as an
example of how international marriage can promote
a greater awareness of other cultures. "Because
the Baha'i Faith is inclusive of all races and
backgrounds, we avoid many of the conflicts that
might come traditionally when a Japanese person
marries a foreigner," said Ms. Schwerin.

"For example, John is from a Christian
background and I am from a Buddhist background,"
Ms. Schwerin said. "The question of what faith to
raise your children in is often a problem for
people in international marriages. Because we
believe in the oneness of religions, we have
educated our children to appreciate all religions."

A successful businesswoman in her own right,
Ms. Schwerin is also active in promoting the
concept of women's equality. She travels
frequently throughout Japan and surrounding
countries to promote this principle -- and the other
ideals of the Baha'i Faith.

The work that Primo Pacsi and the other
Baha'is of Laku Lakuni, a remote village on the
Bolivian altiplano, have done in helping to
establish a small pre-school and to promote
solar-heated greenhouses offers an example of how
Baha'is strive to serve the community at large.

The pre-school, which serves all of the
children in Laku Lakuni, gives students an
important boost in their development. Although a
government-run primary school exists in the
village, the children in this remote and
impoverished high altitude region are often the
victims of inadequate attention during their
pre-school years, considered the most important by
many child development specialists. As a result,
they sometimes do poorly in primary school,
initiating a pattern of failure that casts a shadow
over their entire lives.

In the Baha'i pre-school, group activities
are emphasized -- activities as simple as singing
together -- and the result is significant. "There is
a difference between the students who have been to
pre-school can immediately understand the teacher.
And the teacher has noticed that the ones who have
been to pre-school learn much faster."

The pre-school is a bare-bones operation.
Mr. Pacsi is the main teacher, and, for the most
part, he volunteers his time, assisted only by
occasional donations from parents. Held in a
simple adobe building in the center of the village,
its sessions last only a few hours a day.

"At first, the children were afraid to come,"
said Mr. Pacsi, who embraced the Baha'i Faith in
the mid-1980s. "They didn't want to be in a group.
But now they love to come and sing together.


Now they say, 'Me, Me, Me!' when I teach a
number and ask a question. These things are
connected in that Baha'u'llah teaches that we must
educate our children and that we must cooperate and
work together."


Mr. Pacsi and his fellow Baha'is have also
been instrumental in promoting the use of
solar-heated greenhouses in their community.


Developed by the Dorothy Baker Environmental
Studies Center in Cochabamba, a Baha'i-run
environmental research and study center about 200
kilometers away, the greenhouses enable families in
Laku Lakuni and other communities on the Andean
high plateau to grow a variety of fruits and
vegetables which would not ordinarily survive at
such altitudes.


"We really like the greenhouse," said Mr.
Pacsi, who was the first one in Laku Lakuni to
build one. "Without it, we could not have
vegetables -- we don't have the money to buy them.
But with the greenhouse we can have vegetables. Now
we can have omelets with tomatoes and onions. My
little boy didn't even know vegetables existed. Now
he picks the tomatoes off the plant and eats them
right there in the greenhouse. Now he knows that if
you plant seed and nurture it, the fruit comes up."



*************************

The All-Knowing Physician
hath His finger on the pulse
of mankind. He perceiveth the
disease, and prescribeth, in
His unerring wisdom, the
remedy. Every age hath its
own problem... The remedy
the world needeth in its
present-day afflictions can
never be the same as that
which a subsequent age may
require. Be anxiously
concerned with the needs of
the age ye live in, and center
your deliberations on its
exigencies and requirements."

-- Baha'u'llah

**************************


In composition, Baha'i communities are quite
diffuse. Baha'is do not seek to shut out the world.
Baha'u'llah's writings encourage involvement with
the rest of humanity. Most Baha'is lead lives that
would not seem out of place in their native
society -- save for a strong commitment to certain
spiritual and social principles.


Despite this diffusion, however, Baha'is are
able to maintain their essential unity through a
system of freely elected governing councils, which
operate at the local, national, and international
levels. At the local level, for example, Baha'is
each year elect a nine-member administrative
council, which is known as the local Spiritual
Assembly.


In all activities, Baha'is are expected to
obey civil law and remain loyal to their respective
governments. While they may accept non-partisan
government posts or appointments, Baha'is are
required to refrain from partisan political
activity. At the time he began to look into
Baha'u'llah's teachings in the 1950s, for example,
Stanlake Kukama was the local secretary of the
African National Congress. "I hated the white man,"
said Mr. Kukama, who now lives in Bophuthatswana.
"To me, all whites were oppressors."


With that attitude, it was at first
difficult for Mr. Kukama to accept the teachings of
Baha'u'llah, because of His emphasis on the oneness
of humanity and the necessity of working to
eliminate all racial prejudice -- a principle which
means that not only must whites accept blacks as
equals and friends, but that blacks must learn to
live with and, even, to love whites.


Mr. Kukama came to believe that, in the end,
this path -- and not the confrontational world of
politics -- will lead to a better world. And so, he
has since worked to build a harmonious and diverse
community which could, at the proper time,
demonstrate to all South Africans that association
between people of all races is not only
possible -- but is in fact joyous and reflective of
the reality of human oneness.


The diversity of the South African Baha'i
community today embraces virtually all of the
races, ethnic groups, and tribes that reside there.
More than 90 percent of the approximately 7,500
Baha'is in South Africa are non-white a ratio that
roughly matches the proportions of the population
at large. Baha'is are spread throughout South
Africa, too, with local communities in more than
150 cities and towns.


"The cause of the strife in South Africa is
the 40 years of apartheid, which emphasized ethnic
separation," said Mr. Kukama, who became a school
teacher after he became a Baha'i. "But in the
Baha'i community, even though we come from
different tribes or races, we are all one. And one
day there will be one world -- that is my vision of
man. Togetherness, not separateness."

How Baha'is spread their Faith

Although forbidden by Baha'u'llah from
aggressive proselytizing, Baha'is believe that His
message offers specific and important answers to
the diverse and grave problems facing humanity.
Accordingly, they are eager to share this message
with anyone who expresses and interest.


Sharing Baha'u'llah's vision is known as
"teaching" in Baha'i terminology. Teaching can
take many forms. someone who wants to know more
about the Faith might be invited to a "fireside."
Firesides are informal gathers in homes of Baha'is.
short talks on Baha'i principles are presented and
discussion follows. Light refreshments are often
served, and the gatherings are notable for their
warm and hospitable atmosphere.


Baha'is also endeavor to spread the Faith
by moving into areas where there are few Baha'is.
This is known as "pioneering." This differs
sharply from traditional missionary work in that
pioneers are generally expected to be
self-supporting. They become part of their new
community in all aspects: by working there,
participating in community activities, and
supporting the local government and its
institutions.


Baha'i communities sometimes also hold
large public meetings, buy advertising, or seek
media coverage in order to share more widely the
principles of Baha'u'llah's message.

The Nineteen Day Feast: blend of worship,
fellowship and grassroots democracy

The centerpiece of Baha'i community life is the
Nineteen Day Feast. Held once every 19 days. It
is the local community's regular worship
gathering -- and more.

Open to both adults and children, the Nineteen Day
Feast is the regular gather that promotes and
sustains the unity of the local Baha'i community.
Although its program is adaptable to a wide variety
of cultural and social needs, the Feast always
contains three elements: spiritual devotion,
administrative consultation, and fellowship. As
such, the Feast combines religious worship with
grassroots governance and social development.

The use of the word "feast" might seem to imply
that a large meal will be served. That is not
necessarily the case. While food and beverages are
usually served, the term itself is meant to suggest
that the community should enjoy a "spiritual feast"
of worship, companionship and unity. Baha'u'llah
stressed the important of gathering every nineteen
days, "to bind your hearts together," even if
nothing more than water is served.

During the devotional program, selections from the
Baha'i writings, and often the scriptures from
other religions, are read aloud. A general
discussion follows, allowing every member a voice
in community affairs and making the Feast an "arena
of democracy at the very root of society." The
Feast ends with a period for socializing.

How many Baha'is are there?

Accurately estimating the number of
followers of any world religion is a difficult and
complex task. In some regions of the world,
religious persecution or government oppression may
make individual believers reluctant to identify
themselves. In other areas, poor communication or
travel networks make it difficult to collect data.


With these difficulties in mind,
demographers at the Baha'i World Centre have
attempted to be as conservative as possible in
estimating the number of Baha'is worldwide. Their
most recent survey yielded an estimate of 5,000,000
Baha'is in 1991.


The inherent conservatism of their
methodology is evident when Baha'i statistics are
compared with estimates made by other religious
scholars. Each year, for example, the Encyclopedia
Britannica publishes a table of religious
demographic statistics. According to the 1992
Britannica Book of the Year, there were 5,400,000
Baha'is worldwide in 1991.


Over the last three decades, the number
of Baha'is in the world has grown dramatically. It
is estimated that there were about 400,000 Baha'is
in the world in 1963, the year of the First Baha'i
World Congress. By 1985, it was estimated that
there were about 3,500,000 Baha'is in the world.


In other words, the Baha'i Faith has
grown by an estimated 1,500,000 believers over the
last six years, an increase of roughly 43 percent.


Making any comparison between the rate
of growth of the Baha'i Faith and other religions
must be carefully qualified. Since Baha'i
demographers are not involved in gathering
statistics on other religions, it would be
inappropriate to make any official characterization
about the rate of growth of the Baha'i Faith in
relation to other religious groups.


However, statistics from the World
Christian Encyclopedia, which is perhaps the
best-respected work on this subject, indicate that
the Baha'i Faith is among the fastest growing of
the independent world religions. The World
Christian Encyclopedia estimated that the worldwide
Baha'i community grew at an average rate of 3.63
per cent per year during the 15 years from 1970 to
1985.


Published in 1982, it reports on the
work of Christian demographers who undertook a
decade long survey of religious believers worldwide
in 1970s. The survey attempted to accurately
determine the number Christians -- and followers of
other religions -- in every country, and to make
projections about their growth.


A comparison of rates of growth among
the independent world religions, as reported in the
World Christian Encyclopedia, is shown in the
graph. [Click on "Graph" button on left below.]


While these figures are more than
seven years old, they remain virtually the only
widely published side-by-side comparison of the
rate of growth for various religions.


It is important to qualify these
figures by noting that, according to the World
Christian Encyclopedia, some sects or sub-groups of
Christianity and Islam grew faster than the Baha'i
Faith during this period. None of these sects or
sub-groups, however, were listed as having
followers in more than 100 countries. The Baha'i
Faith, was listed as having established
"significant" communities in more than 192
countries in 1982, at the time of the
Encyclopedia's publication.


More recent figures, reported in the
1992 Britannica Book of the Year, show the Baha'i
Faith as having significant communities in 205
countries, second only to Christianity in its
geographic spread.


Statisticians at the Baha'i World
Centre calculated in 1992 that the Faith is
established in 232 countries and dependent
territories.

The Babi movement, precursor to the Baha'i Faith

Accounts agree that the Bab was an extraordinary
child. Born on 20 October 1819, He possessed a
surprising wisdom and nobility, reminiscent of the
young Jesus. Upon reaching manhood, the Bab joined
his uncle in the family business, a trading house.
His integrity and piety won the esteem of the other
merchants with whom He came in contact. He was also
known for His generosity to the poor.


After His announcement. the Bab
attracted followers rapidly, and the new religious
movement spread through Iran like wildfire. This
growth stirred opposition and
persecution -- especially among the religious
establishment, who saw a threat to their power and
prestige. In the course of this persecution, the
Bab was imprisoned several times.


His major work, the Bayan, abrogated
certain Muslim laws and replaced them with new
ones. The Bayan stressed a high moral standard,
with an emphasis on purity of heart and motive. It
also upheld the station of women and the poor, and
it promoted education and useful sciences.


The central theme of the Bayan was
the imminence of a second Messenger from God, one
Who would be far greater than the Bab, and Whose
mission would be to usher in the age of peace and
plenty that had for so long been promised in Islam,
as well as in Judaism, Christianity, and all the
other world religions.


Persecution and execution


The hearts and minds of those who
heard the message of the Bab were locked in a
mental world that had changed little from medieval
times. Thus, by proclaiming an entirely new
religion, the Bab was able to help His followers
break free entirely from the Islamic frame of
reference and to mobilize them in preparation for
the coming of Baha'u'llah.


The boldness of this proclamation --
which put forth the vision of an entirely new
society -- stirred intense fear within the religious
and secular establishments. Accordingly,
persecution of the Babis quickly developed.


Those opposed to the Bab ultimately
argued that He was not only a heretic, but a
dangerous rebel. The authorities decided to have
Him executed.


On 9 July 1850, this sentence was
carried out, in the courtyard of the Tabriz army
barracks. Some 10,000 people crowded the rooftops
of the barracks and houses that overlooked the
square. The Bab and a young follower were
suspended by two ropes against a wall. A regiment
of 750 Armenian soldiers, arranged in three files
of 250 each, opened fire in three successive
volleys. So dense was the smoke raised by the
gunpowder and dust that the sky was darkened and
the entire yard obscured.


As recorded in an account filed with
the British Foreign Office, the Bab was not to be
seen when the smoke cleared. His companion stood
uninjured and untouched by the bullets. The ropes
by which he and the Bab had been suspended were
rent into pieces.


The Bab was found back in His cell,
giving final instructions to one of His followers.
Earlier in the day, when the guards had come to
take Him to the execution ground, the Bab had
warned that no "earthly power" could silence Him
until He had finished all that He had to say. Now,
when the guards arrived a second time, the Bab
calmly announced: "Now you may proceed to fulfil
your intention."


For the second time, the Bab and His
young companion were brought out for execution. The
Armenian troops refused to fire again, and a Muslim
firing squad was assembled and ordered to shoot.
This time the bodies of the pair were shattered,
their bones and flesh mingled into one mass.
Surprisingly, their faces were untouched.

__________________________________

OR, WHY BAHA'IS SAY THAT THEIR FAITH
__________________________________

WAS FOUNDED IN 1844
__________________________________


The early nineteenth century was a
period of messianic expectations in many lands.
Deeply disturbed by the implications of scientific
inquiry and industrialization, earnest believers
from many religious backgrounds turned to the
scriptures of their faiths for an understanding of
the accelerating processes of change.


In Europe and America groups like the
Templers and the Millerites believed they had found
in the Christian scriptures evidence supporting
their conviction that history had ended and the
return of Jesus Christ was at hand. A markedly
similar ferment developed in the Middle East around
the belief that the fulfillment of various
prophecies in the Qur'an and Islamic Traditions was
imminent.


By far the most dramatic of these
millennialist movements emerged in Iran. It
focused on the person and teachings of a young
merchant from the city of Shiraz, known to history
as the Bab. From 1844 to 1863, Persians of all
classes were caught up in a storm of hope and
excitement, aroused by the Bab's announcement that
the Day of God was at hand and that He was Himself
the One promised in Islamic scripture. Humanity
stood, He said, on the threshold of an era that
would witness the restructuring of all aspects of
life.


In some respects, the Bab's role can
be compared to John the Baptist in the founding of
Christianity. The Bab was Baha'u'llah's herald: His
primary mission was to prepare the way for
Baha'u'llah's coming. Accordingly, the founding of
the Babi Faith is viewed by Baha'is as synonymous
with the founding of the Baha'i Faith -- and its
purpose was fulfilled when Baha'u'llah announced in
1863 that He was the Promised One foretold by the
Bab.


An independent religion


At the same time, however, the Bab
founded a distinctive, independent religion of His
own. Known as the Babi Faith, that religious
dispensation spawned its own vigorous community,
had its own scriptures, and left its own indelible
mark on history.


The Babi Faith was founded on 23 May
1844 when a 25-year-old merchant in the Iranian
city of Shiraz announced that He was Islam's
promised Qa'im, "He Who Will Arise." Although the
young merchant's given name was Siyyid
'Ali-Muhammad, He took the name "Bab," a title that
means "Gate" or "Door" in Arabic. His coming, the
Bab explained, represented the portal through which
the universal Messenger of God expected by all
humanity would soon appear.

An English scholar's encounter with Baha'u'llah

In 1890, the famed Cambridge orientalist Edward G.
Browne met Baha'u'llah, the only Westerner to meet
Him and leave an account of his experience.
Browne, who visited Baha'u'llah in His home at
Bahji, recorded the meeting this way:

The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget,
though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes
seemed to read one's very soul; power and authority
sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the
forehead and face implied an age which the
jet-black hair and beard flowing down in
indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist
seemed to belie. No need to ask in whose presence
I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the
object of a devotion and love which kings might
envy and emperors sigh for in vain!


A mild dignified voice bade me be seated, and
then continued: -- "Praise be to God that thou hast
attained! ... Thou hast come to see a prisoner and
an exile ... We desire but the good of the world
and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem us
a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of
bondage and banishment ...

That all nations should become one in faith and all
men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and
unity between the
sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity
of religion should cease and differences of race be
annulled - what harm is there in this? ... Yet so
it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous
wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace'
shall come ... Do not you in Europe need this
also? Is not this that which Christ foretold? ...
Yet do we see your kings and rulers lavishing their
treasures more freely on means for the destruction
of the human race than on that which would conduce
to the happiness of mankind... These strifes and
this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men
be as one kindred and one family... Let not a man
glory in this, that he loves his country; let him
rather glory in this, that he loves his kind."

The process of revelation


HOW THE WORDS OF BAHA'U'LLAH WERE RECORDED


A unique feature of the Revelation of
Baha'u'llah is the authenticity of its revealed
Word. Unlike the teachings of Christ, for example,
which were written down decades after they were
uttered, the words of Baha'u'llah were recorded and
authenticated at the time they were revealed.The
process of revelation -- as Baha'is term the act of
bringing forth the Word of God -- is described in
several historical documents. One observer
recorded the following:


"Mirza Aqa Jan (Baha'u'llah's personal
secretary) had a large ink-pot the size of a small
bowl. He also had available about ten to twelve
pens and large sheets of paper in stacks. In those
days all letters which arrived for Baha'u'llah were
received by Mirza Aqa Jan. He would bring these
into the presence of Baha'u'llah and, having
obtained permission, would read them. Afterwards
[Baha'u'llah] would direct him to take up his pen
and record the Tablet which was revealed in
reply...


"Such was the speed with which he used to
write the revealed Word that the ink of the first
word was scarcely yet dry when the whole page was
finished. It seemed as if someone had dipped a lock
of hair in the ink and applied it over the whole
page." After each period of Revelation, the
original manuscript would be re-transcribed, with
Baha'u'llah Himself overseeing and approving the
final version.


"The Word of God is the master
key for the whole world,
inasmuch as through its potency
the doors of the hearts of men,
which in reality are the doors of
heaven, are unlocked. "

-- Baha'u'llah






The Writings of Baha'u'llah


In addition to several longer works,
Baha'u'llah wrote a vast number of documents known
as "Tablets," most of them addressed to individuals
among His followers. He has Himself estimated that
the collected Tablets constitute over a hundred
volumes. Moving easily between Persian and Arabic,
both of which languages Baha'u'llah employed with
superb mastery, the Writings are also characterized
by a wide range of styles.


The heart of Baha'u'llah's ethical
teachings is to be found in a small book entitled
The Hidden Words, a compilation of aphorisms dating
from the earliest days of His mission. The work He
describes as a distillation of the spiritual
guidance contained in the successive revelations of
God.


Baha'u'llah's principal exposition of His
doctrinal message is a book entitled the
"Kitab-i-Iqan" (The Book of Certitude). In laying
out the entire panorama of the Divine purpose, the
"Iqan" deals with the great questions which have
always lain at the heart of religious life: God,
the nature of humanity, the purpose of life, and
the function of Revelation.


Among the best known of Baha'u'llah's
mystical writings is a small work entitled The
Seven Valleys. In poetic language, it traces the
stages of the soul's journey to union with its
Creator.


Foremost among Baha'u'llah's writings is
the "Kitab-i-Aqdas" ("The Most Holy Book").
Revealed during the darkest days of His
imprisonment in Acre, the "Aqdas", "Mother Book" of
the Baha'i dispensation, is the chief repository of
the laws and institutions which Baha'u'llah
designed for the World Order He conceived.


The process of translating the sacred
writings into other languages is on-going. The
standard for the work, of translation into English
was established by Shoghi Effendi, who headed the
Baha'i Faith from 1921 to 1957. [See page 55.]
Educated at Oxford, he was able to provide
translations that reflect not only a brilliant
command of the English language, but also an
authoritative exposition of the Texts' meaning.


In undertaking the challenge of finding
an English style which would faithfully convey the
exalted and emotive character of Baha'u'llah's use
of Persian and Arabic, Shoghi Effendi chose a
slightly archaic form of English which echoes the
King James version of the Bible. He also chose, in
accordance with this style, to use the masculine
pronoun for references to God -- although
Baha'u'llah's teachings make clear that no gender
can be attached to the Creator. Shoghi Effendi also
chose to make extensive use of diacritical marks as
a guide to the pronunciation of Arabic and Persian
names, a practice that is followed throughout the
Baha'i community today.


The result is a style that acts as bridge
between modern English and the Persian and Arabic
style in which Baha'u'llah wrote. Accordingly,
Shoghi Effendi's English translations, and not the
Arabic or Persian originals, are used for the work
of translation into other Western languages.


Selections from Baha'u'llah's Writings
have been translated into more than 800 languages.

Baha'u'llah
Messenger of God

Baha'u'llah's writings offer answers to the
timeless theological and philosophical questions
that have plagued humanity since antiquity -- such
as Who is God? What is goodness? and Why are we
here? He also addresses the modern questions that
have preoccupied 20th century thinkers, discussing
the basic motivations of human nature, answering
whether peace is indeed possible, and explaining
how God provides for humanity's security and
welfare.

****************************************

In the middle of the last century, one of the most
notorious dungeons in the Near East was Teheran's
"Black Pit." Once the underground reservoir for a
public bath, its only outlet was a single passage
down three steep flights of stone steps. Prisoners
huddled in their own bodily wastes, languishing in
the pit's inky gloom, subterranean cold and
stench-ridden atmosphere.

In this grim setting, the rarest and most cherished
of religious events was once again played out:
mortal man, outwardly human in other respects, was
summoned by God to bring to humanity a new
religious revelation.

The year was 1852, and the man was a Persian
nobleman, known today as Baha'u'llah. During His
imprisonment, as He sat with his feet in stocks and
a 100-pound iron chain around his neck,
Baha'u'llah received a vision of God's will for
humanity.

The event is comparable to those other great
moments of the ancient past when God revealed
Himself to His earlier Messengers: when Moses stood
before the Burning Bush; when the Buddha received
enlightenment under the Bodhi tree; when the Holy
Spirit, in the form of a dove, descended upon
Jesus; or when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a
dove, descended upon Jesus; or when the archangel
Gabriel appeared to Muhammad.

*****************************
"And since there can be no tie of direct
intercourse to bind the one true God with His
creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist
between the transient and the Eternal, the
contingent and the Absolute, He hath ordained that
in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless
Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and
heaven."


-- Baha'u'llah
******************************

Baha'u'llah's experience in the Black Pit set in
motion a process of religious revelation which,
over the next 40 years, led to the production of
thousands of books, tablets and letters -- which
today form the core of the sacred scripture of the
Baha'i Faith. In those writings, He outlined a
framework for the reconstruction of human society
at all levels: spiritual, moral, economic,
political, and philosophical.

In the past, God's Messengers have for the most
part presented their messages to humanity by
speaking or preaching; these outpourings have been
recorded by others, sometimes during the Prophet's
life, sometimes later, from the memory of His
followers. The Founder of the Baha'i Faith,
however, Himself took up pen and paper and wrote
down for humanity the revelation He received or
dictated His message to believers who served as
secretaries.

Baha'u'llah addressed not only those timeless
theological and philosophical questions that have
plagued humanity since antiquity -- such as Who is
God? What is goodness? and Why are we here? -- but
also the questions that have preoccupied 20th
century thinkers: What motivates human nature? Is
real peace indeed possible? Does God still care
for humanity?

From His words, the worldwide community of
Baha'u'llah draws its inspiration, discovers its
moral bearing and derives creative energy.

Baha'u'llah, whose name means "The Glory of God" in
Arabic, was born on 12 November 1817 in Teheran.
The son of a wealthy government minister, Mirza
Buzurg-i-Nuri, His given name was Husayn-'Ali and
His family could trace its ancestry back to the
great dynasties of Iran's imperial past.
Baha'u'llah led a princely life as a young man,
receiving an education that focused largely on
horsemanship, swordsmanship, calligraphy
and classic poetry.

In October 1835, Baha'u'llah married Asiyih Khanum,
the daughter of another nobleman. They had three
children: a son, 'Abdu'l-Baha, born in 1844; a
daughter, Bahiyyih, born in
1846; and a son, Mihdi, born in 1848.

Baha'u'llah declined the ministerial career open to
Him in government, and chose instead to devote His
energies to a range of philanthropies which had, by
the early 1840s, earned Him widespread renown as
"Father of the Poor." This privileged existence
swiftly eroded after 1844, when Baha'u'llah became
one of the leading advocates of the Babi movement.

Precursor to the Baha'i Faith, the Babi movement
swept Iran like a whirlwind and stirred intense
persecution from the religious establishment.
After the execution of its Founder, the Bab,
Baha'u'llah was arrested and brought, in chains and
on foot, to Teheran. Influential members of the
court and the clergy demanded a death sentence.
Baha'u'llah, however, was protected by His personal
reputation and the social position of His family,
as well as by protests from Western embassies.

Therefore, He was cast into the notorious "Black
Pit," the Siyah-Chal in Persian. Authorities hoped
this would result in His death.
Instead, the dungeon became the birthplace for a
new religious revelation.

************************
"This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in
the past, eternal in the future."

-- Baha'u'llah
***************************


Baha'u'llah spent four months in the Black Pit,
during which time he contemplated the full extent
of His mission. "I was but a man like others,
asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the
All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the
knowledge of all that hath been," He later wrote.
"This thing is not from Me, but from the One Who is
Almighty and All-Knowing. And he bade Me lift up
My voice between earth and heaven..."


Exile


Upon His release, Baha'u'llah was banished from
His native land, the beginning of forty years of
exile, imprisonment, and persecution. He was sent
first to neighboring Baghdad. After about a year,
He left for the mountainous wilderness of
Kurdistan, where He lived entirely alone for two
years. The time was spent reflecting on the
implications of the task to which He had been
called. The period is reminiscent of the periods
of seclusion undertaken by the Founders of the
world's other great Faiths, calling to mind the
wanderings of Buddha, the forty days and nights
spent by Christ in the desert, and Muhammad's
retreat in the cave on Mt. Hira.


In 1856, at the urging of the exiled Babis,
Baha'u'llah returned to Baghdad. Under His renewed
leadership, the stature of the Babi community grew
and Baha'u'llah's reputation as a spiritual leader
spread throughout the city. Fearing that
Baha'u'llah's acclaim would reignite popular
enthusiasm for the movement in Persia, the Shah's
government successfully pressed the Ottoman
authorities to send him farther into exile.


In April 1863, before leaving Baghdad,
Baha'u'llah and His companions camped in a garden
on the banks of the Tigris River. From 21 April to
2 May, Baha'u'llah shared with those Babis in His
company that He was the Promised One foretold by
the Bab -- foretold, indeed, in all the world's
scriptures.


The garden became known as the Garden of Ridvan,
which indicates "paradise" in Arabic. The
anniversary of the twelve days spent there are
celebrated in the Baha'i world as the most joyous
of holidays, known as the Ridvan Festival.


On 3 May 1863, Baha'u'llah rode out of Baghdad,
on His way to Constantinople, the imperial capital,
accompanied by His family and selected companions.
He had become an immensely popular and cherished
figure. Eyewitnesses described the departure in
moving terms, noting the tears of many onlookers
and the honor paid to Him by the authorities.

************************
"I have never aspired after worldly leadership. My
sole purpose hath been to hand down unto men that
which I was bidden to deliver by God..."

-- Baha'u'llah
***************************


After four months in Constantinople, Baha'u'llah
was sent as a virtual state prisoner to Adrianople
(modern Edirne), arriving there on 2 December 1863.
During the five years He spent there, Baha'u'llah's
reputation continued to grow, attracting the
intense interest of scholars, government officials
and diplomats.


Beginning in September 1867, Baha'u'llah wrote
a series of letters to the world leaders of His
time, addressing, among others, Emperor Napoleon
III, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Tsar
Alexander II of Russia, Emperor Franz Joseph, Pope
Pius IX, Sultan Abdul-Aziz, and the Persian ruler,
Nasirid-Din Shah.


In these letters, Baha'u'llah openly proclaimed
His station. He spoke of the dawn of a new age.
But first, He warned, there would be catastrophic
upheavals in the world's political and social
order. To smooth humanity's transition, He urged
the world's leaders to pursue justice. He called
for general efforts at disarmament and urged the
world's rulers to band together into some form of
commonwealth of nations. Only by acting
collectively against war, He said, could a lasting
peace be established.


Continued agitation from opponents caused the
Turkish Government to send the exiles to Acre, a
penal city in Ottoman Palestine. Acre was the end
of the world, the final destination for the worst
of murderers, highway robbers and political
dissidents. A walled city of filthy streets and
damp, desolate houses, Acre had no source of fresh
water, and the air was popularly described as being
so foul that overflying birds would fall dead out
of the sky.


Into this environment, Baha'u'llah and His
family arrived on 31 August 1868, the final stage
in His long exile. He was to spend the rest of His
life, 24 more years, in Acre and its environs. At
first confined to a prison in the barracks,
Baha'u'llah and His companions were later moved to
a cramped house within the city's walls. The
exiles, widely depicted as dangerous heretics,
faced animosity from the city's other residents.
Even the children, when they ventured outside, were
pursued and pelted with stones.


As time passed, however, the spirit of
Baha'u'llah's teachings penetrated the bigotry and
indifference. Even several of the town's governors
and clergy, after examining the teachings of the
Faith, became devoted admirers. As in Baghdad and
Adrianople, Baha'u'llah's moral stature gradually
won the respect, admiration and, even, leadership
of the community at large.


It was in Acre that Baha'u'llah's most important
work was written. Known more commonly among
Baha'is by its Persian name, the Kitab-i-Aqdas (the
Most Holy Book), it outlines the essential laws and
principles that are to be observed by His
followers, and lays the groundwork for Baha'i
administration.

In the late 1870s, Baha'u'llah was given the
freedom to move outside the city's walls and His
followers were able to meet with Him in relative
peace and freedom. He took up residence in an
abandoned mansion and was able to further devote
Himself to writing.


On 29 May 1892, Baha'u'llah passed away. His
remains were laid to rest in a garden room
adjoining the restored mansion, which is known as
Bahji. For Baha'is, this spot is the most holy
place on earth.

Exile


Upon His release, Baha'u'llah was banished
from His native land, the beginning of forty years
of exile, imprisonment, and persecution. He was
sent first to neighboring Baghdad. After about a
year, He left for the mountainous wilderness of
Kurdistan, where He lived entirely alone for two
years. The time was spent reflecting on the
implications of the task to which He had been
called. The period is reminiscent of the periods
of seclusion undertaken by the Founders of the
world's other great Faiths, calling to mind the
wanderings of Buddha, the forty days and nights
spent by Christ in the desert, and Muhammad's
retreat in the cave on Mt. Hira.


In 1856, at the urging of the exiled Babis,
Baha'u'llah returned to Baghdad. Under His renewed
leadership, the stature of the Babi community grew
and Baha'u'llah's reputation as a spiritual leader
spread throughout the city. Fearing that
Baha'u'llah's acclaim would reignite popular
enthusiasm for the movement in Persia, the Shah's
government successfully pressed the Ottoman
authorities to send him farther into exile.


In April 1863, before leaving Baghdad,
Baha'u'llah and His companions camped in a garden
on the banks of the Tigris River. From 21 April to
2 May, Baha'u'llah shared with those Babis in His
company that He was the Promised One foretold by
the Bab -- foretold, indeed, in all the world's
scriptures.


The garden became known as the Garden of Ridvan,
which indicates "paradise" in Arabic. The
anniversary of the twelve days spent there are
celebrated in the Baha'i world as the most joyous
of holidays, known as the Ridvan Festival.


On 3 May 1863, Baha'u'llah rode out of Baghdad,
on His way to Constantinople, the imperial capital,
accompanied by His family and selected companions.
He had become an immensely popular and cherished
figure. Eyewitnesses described the departure in
moving terms, noting the tears of many onlookers
and the honor paid to Him by the authorities.

************************
"I have never aspired after worldly leadership. My
sole purpose hath been to hand down unto men that
which I was bidden to deliver by God..."

-- Baha'u'llah
***************************


After four months in Constantinople, Baha'u'llah
was sent as a virtual state prisoner to Adrianople
(modern Edirne), arriving there on 2 December 1863.
During the five years He spent there, Baha'u'llah's
reputation continued to grow, attracting the
intense interest of scholars, government officials
and diplomats.


Beginning in September 1867, Baha'u'llah wrote
a series of letters to the world leaders of His
time, addressing, among others, Emperor Napoleon
III, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Tsar
Alexander II of Russia, Emperor Franz Joseph, Pope
Pius IX, Sultan Abdul-Aziz, and the Persian ruler,
Nasirid-Din Shah.


In these letters, Baha'u'llah openly proclaimed
His station. He spoke of the dawn of a new age.
But first, He warned, there would be catastrophic
upheavals in the world's political and social
order. To smooth humanity's transition, He urged
the world's leaders to pursue justice. He called
for general efforts at disarmament and urged the
world's rulers to band together into some form of
commonwealth of nations. Only by acting
collectively against war, He said, could a lasting
peace be established.

Continued agitation from opponents caused the
Turkish Government to send the exiles to Acre, a
penal city in Ottoman Palestine. Acre was the end
of the world, the final destination for the worst
of murderers, highway robbers and political
dissidents. A walled city of filthy streets and
damp, desolate houses, Acre had no source of fresh
water, and the air was popularly described as being
so foul that overflying birds would fall dead out
of the sky.


Into this environment, Baha'u'llah and His
family arrived on 31 August 1868, the final stage
in His long exile. He was to spend the rest of His
life, 24 more years, in Acre and its environs. At
first confined to a prison in the barracks,
Baha'u'llah and His companions were later moved to
a cramped house within the city's walls. The
exiles, widely depicted as dangerous heretics,
faced animosity from the city's other residents.
Even the children, when they ventured outside, were
pursued and pelted with stones.


As time passed, however, the spirit of
Baha'u'llah's teachings penetrated the bigotry and
indifference. Even several of the town's governors
and clergy, after examining the teachings of the
Faith, became devoted admirers. As in Baghdad and
Adrianople, Baha'u'llah's moral stature gradually
won the respect, admiration and, even, leadership
of the community at large.


It was in Acre that Baha'u'llah's most
important work was written. Known more commonly
among Baha'is by its Persian name, the
Kitab-i-Aqdas (the Most Holy Book), it outlines the
essential laws and principles that are to be
observed by His followers, and lays the groundwork
for Baha'i administration.


In the late 1870s, Baha'u'llah was given the
freedom to move outside the city's walls and His
followers were able to meet with Him in relative
peace and freedom. He took up residence in an
abandoned mansion and was able to further devote
Himself to writing.


On 29 May 1892, Baha'u'llah passed away.
His remains were laid to rest in a garden room
adjoining the restored mansion, which is known as
Bahji. For Baha'is, this spot is the most holy
place on earth.

Social and Moral Teachings
___________________________________________

A BLEND OF THE PROGRESSIVE AND THE
___________________________________________

TRADITIONAL, WITH AN EMPHASIS ON UNITY
___________________________________________

There has never been a futurist, a forecaster,
or a prophet whose vision has so
accurately foreseen the critical features of the
landscape before humanity.


One of the extraordinary features of the
writings of Baha'u'llah is the degree to which they
accurately forecast the cutting edge issues that
humanity has increasingly faced.

Throughout His writings, Baha'u'llah
called for a complete restructuring of the global
social order. His vision of renewal touches on all
aspects of life, from personal morality to
economics and governance; from community
development to religious practice.

The central theme of Baha'u'llah's
writings is that humanity is one single race and
the day has come for its unification into one
global society. Through an irresistible historical
process, the traditional barriers of race, class,
creed, faith and nation will break down. These
forces will, Baha'u'llah said, give birth in time
to a new universal civilization. The crises now
afflicting the planet face all its peoples with the
need to accept their oneness and work towards the
creation of a unified global society.

Baha'u'llah outlined certain fundamental
principles upon which this new world civilization
should be founded. These include the elimination of
all forms of prejudice; full equality between the
sexes; recognition of the essential oneness of the
world's great religions; the elimination of
extremes of poverty and wealth; universal
education; a high standard of personal conduct; the
harmony of science and religion; a sustainable
balance between nature and technology; and the
establishment of a world federal system, based on
collective security and the oneness of humanity.

Covering questions pertaining to the role
of women, race relations, economic justice,
environmental degradation, and world order, these
principles illustrate the concerns that have fueled
the century's most dynamic movements. And,
accordingly, they have come to head the social and
political agenda of humanity.

There has never been a futurist, a
forecaster, or a prophet whose vision has so
accurately foreseen the critical features of the
social landscape. Far from fading, a century after
He lived, the issues Baha'u'llah focused on have
come to dominate the collective life of humanity.

Unity the Theme


The Baha'i Faith's progressive approach to
human society originates with Baha'u'llah's
emphasis on unity. Indeed, if one were to
characterize His teachings in a single word, that
word would be unity.

Throughout His writings, Baha'u'llah
emphasized the importance -- and the reality -- of
unity and oneness. First, God is one. All of the
world's great religions are also one. They
represent humanity's responses to the revelations
of the word and will of God for humanity by
successive Messengers from the one God. These
understandings lie at the heart of the concept of
unity in Baha'u'llah's teachings.

From this fundamental concept of Divine and
religious unity, other principles emerge.
Baha'u'llah teaches that all humans, as creations
of the one God, are also one people. Distinctions
of race, nation, class or ethnic origin are
ephemeral when understood in this context.
Likewise, any notions of individual, tribal,
provincial or national superiority are discarded in
the Baha'i Faith. Speaking through Baha'u'llah,
the voice of God proclaims:

"Know ye not why We created you all from
the same dust? That no one should exalt himself
over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts
how ye were created. Since We have created you all
from one same substance it is incumbent on you to
be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet,
eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land,
that from your inmost being, by your deeds and
actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of
detachment may be made manifest "


The Oneness of
Humanity


The idea that all humanity is one race forms the
foundation for the other principles of social
justice in the Baha'i Faith. Baha'u'llah condemned
racial and ethnic prejudice, urging: "Close your
eyes to racial differences, and welcome all with
the light of oneness."


_________________________________________________

"Women and men have been and will always be
equal in the

sight of God."

-- Baha'u'llah

_______________________________________________


Baha'u'llah also unequivocally proclaimed the
equality of the sexes -- at a time when the women's
movement was only beginning its fight for suffrage
in the West and such ideas were unheard of in the
Middle East -- thus becoming the first Founder of a
world religion to explicitly uphold strict equality
for women and men. Indeed, girls should receive
priority in education if by some circumstance a
family (or a society) cannot afford to educate its
children equally. "Until the reality of equality
between men and women is fully established and
attained, the highest social development of mankind
is not possible," the Baha'i scriPtures state.

__________________________________________________


"He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful,
cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the
entire human race as one

soul and one body."



-- Baha'u'llah

__________________________________________________


This challenge to full equality does not ignore
natural differences between the sexes. Baha'u'llah
emphasized the importance of motherhood, fatherhood
and family life.

Baha'u'llah's call for economic justice
also reflects His central theme of human oneness.
He wrote extensively about the necessity of
promoting economic justice and proposed specific
remedies to help control the extreme inequalities
of wealth in human society. The redistribution of
wealth through a tax on income, for example, and
the concept of profit-sharing are both promoted in
His teachings.



Education is given a special emphasis as humanity
is considered capable of tremendous progress and
advancement. "Regard man as a mine rich in gems of
inestimable value," wrote Baha'u'llah. "Education
can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and
enable mankind to benefit therefrom."

Education, accordingly, should be
universal and should incorporate positive spiritual
values and moral attitudes. Baha'is envision a
future in which even "basic education" goes beyond
rote learning and the teaching of simple skills.
Students must be given the tools to analyze social
conditions and requirements themselves, to take
part in community planning and action, and to
investigate truth on their own. The oneness of
humanity is an essential element of every Baha'i
curriculum.


Science and Religion


The theme of unity also emerges in
Baha'u'llah's teachings on science. His writings
portray science and religion as different yet
harmonious approaches to the comprehension of
reality. These two paths are essentially
compatible and mutually reinforcing. Scientific
method is humanity's tool for understanding the
physical side of the universe. It can describe the
composition of an atomic nucleus or the molecular
structure of DNA. It is the key to new
technologies. Science cannot, however, guide us in
the use of such knowledge. The revelation of God
offers to humanity a basis for values and purpose.
It provides answers to those questions of morals,
human purpose, and our relationship to God that
science cannot approach.

The independent investigation of reality,
whether scientific or religious, is strongly
encouraged in Baha'u'llah's writings. Individuals
should strive, He said, to free themselves from
prejudices, preconceptions and reliance on
tradition or traditional authorities. Consultation
is a critical tool for discovering truth. [See
"Consultation" under "A System for Global
Governance".]


Baha'u'llah also called for the adoption
of a universal auxiliary language as a means to
promote unity. "The day is approaching when all
the peoples of the world will have adopted one
universal language and one common script," He
wrote. "When this is achieved, to whatsoever city
a man may journey, it shall be as if he were
entering his own home." The term "auxiliary" is
important: Baha'u'llah's injunction is not a
mandate for cultural uniformity. Indeed, the Baha'i
teachings both value and promote cultural
diversity.

When first outlined by Baha'u'llah more
than 100 years ago, these principles were as
radical as any social program ever drafted. The
fact that they have not only borne the passage of
time, but, indeed, become ever more widely
proclaimed and recognized is a testimony to the
vision that produced them.

Baha'u'llah's moral code for the
individual, and His pattern for marriage and family
life, are wholly consonant with the genuine needs
of modern society. As with the social principles,
the laws of Baha'u'llah on individual morality and
family structure are aimed at the promotion of
unity and well-being for society at large. "They
whom God hath endued with insight will readily
recognize that the precepts laid down by God
constitute the highest means for the maintenance of
order in the world and the security of its
peoples," Baha'u'llah wrote.

____________________________________________

"The well-being of mankind, its peace and
security, are unattainable unless and until its
unity is firmly established."



-- Baha'u'llah
____________________________________________


This insight -- that the standards for social
justice and individual conduct outlined by
Baha'u'llah offer an integrated and distinctive
approach to the apparently intractable problems
faced by humanity today -- underlies the essential
optimism of the worldwide Baha'i community. Whether
considering the threat of environmental
degradation, the cancer of racism, or the erosion
of the family, Baha'is believe firmly that answers
are available in the writings of Baha'u'llah. Their
commitment is to share these insights with the
world.

Marriage and family life


Baha'is understand that the family is
the basic unit of society. Unless this
all-important building block is healthy and
unified, society itself cannot be healthy and
unified. Monogamous marriage stands at the
foundation of family life.

Baha'u'llah said marriage is "a fortress for
well-being and salvation." The Baha'i writings
further state that married couples should strive to
become "loving companions and comrades and at one
with each other for time and eternity...

Baha'is view preparation for marriage as an
essential element in ensuring a happy marriage. The
process of preparation includes a requirement for
parental approval of the choice of a spouse. This
does not mean that Baha'i marriages are arranged.
Individuals propose marriage to the persons of
their own choice. However, once the choice is made,
the parents have both the right and the obligation
to weigh carefully whether to give consent to, and
thus guide, their offspring in one of life's most
important decisions.

Baha'is believe that this requirement
helps to preserve unity within the marriage -- and
within the extended family. As did previous
Messengers of God, Baha'u'llah asks His followers
to honor their parents. Obtaining parental
permission for marriage reaffirms the importance of
the bond between child and parent. It also helps
to create a supportive network of parents in the
often difficult first years of a marriage.


Simple vows and ceremony


Once parental permission is obtained, the
marriage takes place, requiring only the simplest
of ceremonies. In the presence of two witnesses
designated by the local Baha'i governing council,
the couple recites the following verse: "We will
all, verily, abide by the will of God." For
Baha'is, that simple commitment to live by God's
will implies all of the commitments associated with
marriage, including the promises to love, honor,
and cherish; to care for each other regardless of
material health or wealth; and to share with and
serve each other.

Beyond these simple requirements, Baha'is
are free to design their own marriage celebration.
Depending on personal tastes, family resources, and
cultural traditions, Baha'i ceremonies run the
gamut from small to large, including all manner of
music, dance, dress, food and festivity.

As in most religions, the marriage vow is
considered sacred in the Baha'i Faith. The
partners are expected to be absolutely faithful to
each other.

The Faith's emphasis on the equality of
women and men, however, and its promotion of
consultation as a tool for problem-solving mean
that the roles of husband and wife within a Baha'i
marriage are not the traditional ones. Women are
free to pursue careers that interest them; men are
expected to share in household duties and
child-rearing.

So-called "interracial marriage" is also
encouraged in the Baha'i teachings, which stress
the essential oneness of the human race.

Divorce is allowed but discouraged


If a Baha'i marriage fails, divorce is
permitted, although it is strongly discouraged. If
Baha'is choose to seek a divorce, they must spend
at least one year living apart and attempting to
reconcile. If a divorce is still desired after that
year, it is then granted, dependent on the
requirements of civil law. This "year of patience,"
as it is known to Baha'is, is supervised by the
local Spiritual Assembly, the local Baha'i
governing council.

The key purpose of Baha'i
marriage -- beyond physical, intellectual and
spiritual companionship -- is children. Baha'is view
child-rearing not only as a source of great joy and
reward, but as a sacred obligation.

While stating firmly that women must
enjoy full equality with men, Baha'u'llah's
teachings also recognize explicitly the innate
differences between the feminine and masculine
natures -- both physical and emotional. Baha'is
understand, accordingly, that mothers have a
special role to play in the early education of
children -- especially during the first few years of
life when the basic values and character of every
individual is formed.

Since Baha'is believe that the soul
appears at the moment of conception, the parents
pray for the well-being of the unborn child while
it is still in the womb. Education in general, and
Baha'i education in particular are of paramount
importance in Baha'i families. From their earliest
years, the children are encouraged to develop the
habits of prayer and meditation, and to acquire
knowledge, both intellectual and spiritual. o

He, She or It?


Like previous Messengers of God,
Baha'u'llah used he masculine pronoun when
referring to the Creator. To have done anything
else would have violated all conventions of
Arabic -- the principal language in which Baha'u'llah
wrote.

Baha'u'llah stated explicitly, however,
that God is beyond any comparison to human form or
gender. Accordingly, the issue of whether to refer
to God as "He," "She," or "it" does not arise in
Baha'i discussions.
Heaven and hell: a Baha'i view of life after death


As in the world's other religions, the Baha'i
concept of life after death is deeply integrated
into teachings about the nature of the soul and the
purpose of this earthly life.

Baha'u'llah confirmed the existence of a
separate, rational soul for every human. In this
life, He said, the soul is related to the physical
body. It provides the underlying animation for the
body, and is our real self.

Although undetectable by physical
instruments, the soul shows itself through the
qualities of character that we associate with each
person. The soul is the focal point for love and
compassion, for faith and courage, and for other
such "human" qualities that cannot be explained
solely by thinking of a human being as an animal,
or as a sophisticated organic machine.

The soul does not die; it endures
everlastingly. When the human body dies, the soul
is freed from ties with the physical body and the
surrounding physical world and begins its progress
through the spiritual world. Baha'is understand
the spiritual world to be a timeless and placeless
extension of our own universe -- and not some
physically remote or removed place.

Entry into the next life has the potential
to bring great joy. Baha'u'llah likened death to
the process of birth. He explains: "The world
beyond is as different from this world as this
world is different from that of the child while
still in the womb of its mother."

The analogy to the womb in many ways
summarizes the Baha'i view of earthly existence.
Just as the womb constitutes an important place for
a person's initial physical development, the
physical world provides the matrix for the
development of the individual soul. Accordingly,
Baha'is view life as a sort of workshop, where one
can develop and perfect those qualities which will
be needed in the next life.

"Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul
of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will,
assuredly return and be gathered to the glory of
the Beloved," Baha'u'llah wrote. "By the
righteousness of God! It shall attain a station
such as no pen can depict, or tongue can describe."

In the final analysis, heaven can be seen
partly as a state of nearness to God; hell is a
state of remoteness from God. Each state follows as
a natural consequence of individual efforts, or the
lack thereof, to develop spiritually. The key to
spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined
by the Manifestations of God.

Beyond this, the exact nature of the
afterlife remains a mystery. "The nature of the
soul after death can never be described,"
Baha'u'llah writes.

Holy-Writings.com v2.7 (213613) © 2005 - 2015 Emanuel V. Towfigh & Peter Hoerster | Imprint | Change Interface Language: DE EN