Introduction to the Faith from a Friend

May 2016
5
Canada
Hello everyone, I am actually not a Baha'i but one of my passions in life is studying religion. I have been researching the Faith and interacting with the Baha'i community for the past year or so and I have come to really appreciate the Faith. I also enjoy studying other religions and topics such as mysticism, philosophy, and history regarding religion. I recently started my own blog and my first post was actually an introduction to the Faith! You can find it here: Introducing the Baha’i Faith! | Lotus Flower Path

Alternatively you may read it below. Tell me what you think and follow me @lotusflowerpath

The Baha’i Faith is the most recent major world religion. The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion which began in Persia in the 1800’s. Interestingly, much like how Christ was foretold by John the Baptist, the prophet of the Bahá’í Faith was likewise foretold by someone. Indeed, Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad claimed to be famed Mahdi of Islam. He would later call himself the Báb, or the “gate”, recalling the station of the Twelfth Imam of Shi’a Islam. Unfortunately the Báb was martyred at a very young age after years of imprisonment within the Persian Empire. However, before his death he foretold that another prophet even greater than he would soon be made manifest. Bahá’ís believe that this prophet was Mírzá Husayn `Alí Núrí, later known as Bahá’u’lláh. In the Bahá’í Faith prophets are called Manifestations of God as they exhibit all of the attributes of God like a polished mirror perfectly reflects the sun.



“Every one of them is a mirror of God, reflecting naught else but His Self, His Beauty, His Might and Glory, if ye will understand.”

-XXX Gleanings



Stemming from the Abrahamic religions, the Bahá’í Faith has a strong lineage in the theatre of world religions. Indeed, the Manifestation Bahá’u’lláh traces his ancestral roots back to the Prophet Abraham as well as the Prophet Zoroaster. Yet the Faith does not promote the culmination and unity of just the religions of the Near East. Rather the founders of the Faith promoted the complete unity of God’s messengers, noting that Buddha, Zoroaster and Krishna were also all true messengers of God and that many more would remain unnamed. When Bahá’u’lláh was responding to theological inquiries from a Zoroastrian living in India he replied:



“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, and every soul its particular aspiration. 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 centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”

-The Tabernacle of Unity



The above is a key theological stance in the Baha’i Faith. Baha’is believe in what is called “Progressive Revelation” which is built upon the Greater Covenant with God which states that God will never leave mankind without a guide so long as mankind follows God.

In today’s age Bahá’ís believe that the commandments and regulations from God can be found in the holy text known as the Kitab-i-Aqdas, The Most Holy Book. If laws are not your preferred reading material then do not despair! Bahá’u’lláh revealed hundreds, if not thousands, of divine words in many different forms; check out the link to the library below. The authenticity of the religion comes from its almost unparalleled position as one of the few old faiths where the founder wrote or checked over all recorded revelation himself to ensure that it was documented perfectly. Reading the texts of Bahá’u’lláh you are bound to find messages which warm the heart. Revealed in beautiful Arabic or Farsi and translated into English in alluring prose by his great grandson, you will find messages which promote the unity of God’s religion over the course of mankind’s history, messages which burn away the veils of ignorance and bigotry, and revelation that is incredibly in line with modern science even though it was revealed decades before the scientific discovery. One of Bahá’u’lláh's most famous verses has, and likely always will be the following:



“The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

-Lawḥ-i-Maqṣúd



Bahá’ís believe that humanity is at a place where society is ready to change dramatically for the good should we as humans wish to go in that direction. As such, you will notice that Bahá’ís are heavily involved in their community, even if they are small in number. They donate their time and money to charity, focus on instilling good moral values by holding youth groups and providing support for troubled individuals, and remain non-judging and non-violent even in the face of severe discrimination. Their actions are not limited just to promoting their religion, and proselytizing is actually banned. Followers of the Bahá’í Faith come in many different colours, speak many different languages, and come from a variety of prior religions.

The unity found within the diverse mosaic of Bahá’ís is due to the Lesser Covenant. Much like how the Greater Covenant is a pact between God and mankind, the Lesser Covenant is a pact between the Manifestation of God and His followers. Indeed, the Lesser Covenant of the Baha’i Faith has reduced the conflict surrounding Bahá’u’lláh's successor to nearly zero. As such the Baha’i Faith stands alone on the world stage as the only major religion with no sects. The Lesser Covenant begins with Bahá’u’lláh's appointment of His eldest son Abdu’l Bahá as the center of the covenant. This was done when Bahá’u’lláh was still alive and can be found in various verses, most notably in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Furthermore in His will and testament known as the Kitab-i-Ahd, Bahá’u’lláh makes it unequivocally clear that Abdu’l Bahá is to be the true successor. Likewise Abdu’l Bahá hand-wrote his own will and testament appointing his righteous grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the successor. Finally, beginning with Bahá’u’lláh and developing through the successors a system of democratic governance known as the Universal House of Justice was set up to be the final successor after Shoghi Effendi’s untimely death.

The Universal House of Justice situated in Haifa. The democratically elected head and center of the Lesser Covenant for today's Bahá'ís. Courtesy of Bahá\'í Faith, New Zealand | Whakapono Bahá\'í o Aotearoa
Currently Bahá’ís are being persecuted by the government in Iran. They are often barred from university, have their businesses shut down, and are systematically discriminated by the government despite the general populous enjoying their presence. Despite being the second largest religion in Iran, they currently have no lawful protection and their stance on non-violence, and pride in their faith has made their persecution that much easier. This is an unfortunate circumstance for a group of people so kind, gentle, and community focused, but it is the reality for those individuals still living in Iran. As such, many Iranian people you meet in the West are likely to be Bahá’í. However, most Bahá’ís are actually from India, and the temple which is commonly referred to as the Lotus Temple is in fact a Bahá’í temple and attracts more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to the Bahá’í Faith! I would like to thank the Bahá’ís I have spent my time with over the past year when I started seriously studying the Faith. I would like to thank them for the donation of their time in answering all of my questions, their hospitality, and their loving-kindness which has deeply touched my heart. To make your own research easier I have linked below a couple of websites with many of the Faith’s writings as well as a link to my favourite theological writing in the Faith and a most praised history of the religion by the great grandson of Bahá’u’lláh, Shoghi Effendi!



Please share your thoughts and comments!

-G.L.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

To learn more about the persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran please go to the Iran Press Watch by clicking on the hyperlink.

To look at the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Abdu’l Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi please go to the Baha'i Reference Library by clicking on the hyperlink.

Want a good history of the Bahá’í Faith? Please read God Passes By written by Shoghi Effendi, also known as the Guardian of the Faith.
 
Oct 2014
1,829
Stockholm
Oh, I love it. This is what there should be more of: people who aren't actually registered Bahá'ís, but who have grasped what it is about and actively try to follow the same path.

gnat
 
Dec 2012
207
Earth
Greetings Lotusflowerpath,

Personal website journals tend to be rather interesting because they chart people's progress. This can appeal to a small but dedicated reader base.

I am glad to see that you have acquired your own URL and are hosting it directly rather that going through a free third-party hosting provider. This will afford you complete control of your published domain and permit you to modify the layout and structure as you see fit.

Do not concern yourself if some people think your material can be expressed differently. It is your website and by ensuring that it reflects your understanding it is possible to witness your growth. This is what will make it interesting to read.

Some Bahá'ís maintain website journals too and they are interesting for exactly the same reasons. Here is one from an established Bahá'í for instance https://phulme.wordpress.com I still enjoy witnessing the way his mind still fights with some spiritual issues because his background is in psychiatry. Personal website journals need to be honest like this because this is what gives them so much appeal to readers. As you can see, personal journals can take on many interesting forms because they are ultimately about the way the author learns to see the world around them.

Here is wishing you every success with your website.

Earth
 
Nov 2015
239
United States
Hello Ali!

The Bab was actually not the Mahdi but the Qa'im (He who arises). Baha'u'llah, on the other hand is the one more specifically prophesied in Islam or Qu'ran as the Mahdi.
Would you mind citing a source for this? I was under the impression that Qa'im was a title for Mahdi, and Mahdi was a name of the Hidden Imam. I have also never read that Bahá'u'lláh was the Mahdi but the Báb was not. Fron what i hace read, i think the usage of the terms within the context of Baha'i history implies that both are titles for a foretold spiritual teacher/Manifestation of God, but if you have a source that is more specific I would appreciate it! Thank you for your contributions, regardless. Cheers!
 
Dec 2009
165
United States
The Báb was the Mahdi (spelled Mihdí in the Writings). Here are several authoritative quotes.

This treatise was written in reply to a seeker who had asked how the promised Mihdí could have become transformed into ‘Alí-Muḥammad (the Báb). The opportunity provided by this question was seized to elaborate on a number of subjects, all of which are of use and benefit both to them that seek and to those who have attained, could ye perceive with the eye of divine virtue.

- Bahá'u'lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries
He Who hath revealed the Qur’án unto Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, ordaining in the Faith of Islám that which was pleasing unto Him, hath likewise revealed the Bayán, in the manner ye have been promised, unto Him Who is your Qá’im, your Guide, your Mihdí, your Lord, Him Whom ye acclaim as the manifestation of God’s most excellent titles. Verily the equivalent of that which God revealed unto Muḥammad during twenty-three years, hath been revealed unto Me within the space of two days and two nights. However, as ordained by God, no distinction is to be drawn between the two. He, in truth, hath power over all things.

- The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb
For instance, if all those who were expecting the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus had been assured of the manifestation of Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, not one would have turned aside from the sayings of Jesus. So likewise in the Revelation of the Point of the Bayán, if all should be assured that this is that same Promised Mihdí [One Who is guided] whom the Apostle of God foretold, not one of the believers in the Qur’án would turn aside from the sayings of the Apostle of God. So likewise in the Revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest, behold the same thing; for should all be assured that He is that same “He Whom God shall make manifest” whom the Point of the Bayán hath foretold, not one would turn aside.

- The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb
THE divine Revelation associated with the advent of Him Who is your promised Mihdí hath proved far more wondrous than the Revelation wherewith Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, was invested. Would that ye might ponder. Verily, God raised up Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, from among the people of Arabia after he had reached forty years of age—a fact which every one of you affirmeth and upholdeth—while your Redeemer was raised up by God at the age of twenty-four amidst people none of whom can speak or understand a single word of Arabic.

- The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb
In short this changeable minister, by reason of his mismanagement of important matters and failure to control and order the affairs of the community, so acted that disturbance and clamor arose from all quarters and directions: the most notable and influential of the doctors ordered the common folk to molest the followers of the Báb, and a general onslaught took place. More especially when the claim of Mihdí-hood reached the hearing of eminent divines and profound doctors they began to make lamentation and to cry and complain from their pulpits...

- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, A Traveler's Narrative
He the “Qá’im” (He Who ariseth) promised to the Shí‘ahs, the “Mihdí” (One Who is guided) awaited by the Sunnís, the “Return of John the Baptist” expected by the Christians, the “Úshídar-Máh” referred to in the Zoroastrian scriptures, the “Return of Elijah” anticipated by the Jews, Whose Revelation was to show forth “the signs and tokens of all the Prophets”, Who was to “manifest the perfection of Moses, the radiance of Jesus and the patience of Job” had appeared, proclaimed His Cause, been mercilessly persecuted and died gloriously.

- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By