Baha'i

{bah - hah' - ee}

General Information

Baha'i is a religious movement founded in the 19th century by the Persian Bahaullah. It claims members in practically every country of the world. Objecting to polygamy, slavery of any kind, religious prejudices, and politicized religion, Baha'is call for world peace and harmony. The ideals of a world federalist government and a new world language are also a part of their teachings. Recognition of the common ground of all religions is seen as fostering this move toward global unity; Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Zarathustra, Jesus, and Muhammad are all recognized as divine manifestations, a series of prophets culminating in Bahaullah. Nonresistance, respect for persons, and legal recognition of the equal rights of both sexes constitute additional aspects of Baha'i teaching.

By the time of Bahaullah's death in 1892, the Baha'i faith had won adherents throughout the Middle East. Under his son Abbas Effendi (or Abdul Baha, 1844 - 1921), who succeeded him as the movement's leader, it spread to Europe and the United States. Abbas Effendi was succeeded by his grandson, Shoghi Effendi (1897 - 1957). Since Shoghi Effendi's death, the Baha'is have been governed by elected leaders. Divided into more than 130 national assemblies and more than 26,000 local assemblies, they are estimated to number about 2 million worldwide. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the discrimination to which Baha'is have always been subjected in the country of their origin has escalated into outright persecution.

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Bibliography:
W Hatcher and J D Martin, The Baha'i Faith (1985); W M Miller, The Baha'i Faith: Its History and Teachings (1974); P Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions (1987).


Baha'i

Advanced Information

The Baha'i faith aims at a universal community of the human race; unity of all religions; and peace; for the whole world. Its founder was Baha'u'llah, lived in Persia in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He and his followers believe in the teachings of Moses and Jesus, Krishna and Buddha, Zoroaster, Muhammed, and the other major religious figures of history. All are considered correct and are to be reconciled into a comprehensive world religion for all men.

Each of the planet's six inhabited continents has one Temple. Each has unique architecture, but all have nine - symmetry, with nine identical entry doors so that members of each of the nine major religions of the world are welcomed. Services are weekly with meditation available between. The services include readings from scriptures of the world's religions.

All races, nationalities, and creeds are welcomed into their fellowship, in recognition that we all originated from the same "tree." There is no ritual and no clergy. "Teachers" and "pioneers" are unpaid assistance for students. Marriage and funeral services are simple and flexible. Virtually no buildings or assets are owned (except for the 6 Temples), so there is little emphasis on monetary or worldly concerns. Local meetings are generally in constituents' homes, with a few conventions for interspersal of knowledge.

Most religions look for differences in competing religions in order to criticize those believers as having wrong beliefs. Baha'i look for agreements with other religions in order to build common foundations for the eventual universal religion.

Funds which are given to the Baha'i go almost exclusively to publishing a large assortment of writings (many written by Baha'u'llah) which generally emphasize the commonalities of beliefs of the world's religions. These writings have been translated into over 700 languages!

Principles

Several of these are amazing considering they were espoused about 150 years ago, at a time when, in America, slavery was common and women didn't have the vote.

Some guiding principles are very strict. Smoking and drinking are absolutely banned. So are slavery, asceticism, monasticism. Idleness is condemned. Monogamy, strict obedience to one's government, and any works performed in the spirit of service are exalted.


Baha'is

Advanced Information

Doctrines

Baha'is follow the teaching of Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri (1817-1892) whose title is Baha Allah ('splendour of God'). Baha Allah believed himself to be the prophet foretold by Sayid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the founder of the Babi movement. Baha Allah taught that God had become manifest in many different forms such as Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab and Baha Allah himself. Baha Allah is not, however, the final and definitive manifestation of God. Other prophets will come, but not for at least 1000 years.

There are no initiation rites, priesthood or sacraments in the Baha'i religion. Baha'is are required to pray every day; to meet at the first day of each Baha'i month for celebration; to fast from dawn to sunset during the month of 'Ala; to avoid drugs or alcohol; to avoid membership of political parties; and to observe particular holy days such as the birth of Baha Allah and the martyrdom of the Bab.

Emphasis is placed on the unity of humanity and the absolute equality of men and women. Baha'is see themselves working towards the establishment of a world government which will eradicate extremes of wealth and poverty. There is no single Baha'i sacred text. The writings of Baha Allah are, however, treated as sacred. The most important of these are: The Most Holy Book, The Book of Certitude, The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys, and Epistle to the Son of the Wolf.

History

Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri was converted as a young man to the teachings of the Babi. In 1852 he was thrown into Tehran prison during the first wave of persecution against the Babis. On his release in January 1853 he went to Baghdad where he became the de facto head of the Babi community there. In 1863 he proclaimed himself to be the messiah foretold by the Bab. Such was his influence that the Ottoman authorities decided to move him from Baghdad to Istanbul and from there to Edirne (in Turkey). In 1868 Husayn Ali and many followers were exiled to Acre in Palestine where Husayn Ali was imprisoned for nine years in the fortress in Acre. Shortly after his release he went to live in Bahji, near Haifa, where he remained until his death in 1892.

On the death of Baha Allah, the movement came under the leadership of his eldest son 'Abbas Effendi (1844-1921), who acquired the title 'Abd al-Baha ("servant of the glory of God"). After a spell in prison under the Ottoman Turks he undertook three missionary journeys: to Egypt (1910), to Europe (1911), and to the United States and Europe (1912-1913). Lecturing to large audiences, he both consolidated Baha'ism in these parts of the world and systematised his father's teachings.

'Abbas Effendi was succeeded by his grandson, Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), who directed his energies into developing the Baha'i communities in Europe and North America. Under his leadership the Baha'i community came to be organised within a system based on local and national assemblies. When he died in 1957 he left no heirs, and the movement's organisation was placed under the jurisdiction of a body known as the Council of the Hands of the Cause. In 1962 the International House of Justice was established in Haifa. This body is reelected every five years.

Today Baha'i communities can be found in almost every country in the world. In Iran they continue to represent the largest minority religious group, and have suffered particularly during the period of the Iranian revolution.

Symbols

Baha'is believe that God's greatest name is Baha (glory, splendour). The name is used by Baha'is when they are addressing one another, and is often found on rings or wall hangings. A second expression, Ya Baha 'u' -l Abha (O Thou the Glory of the All-Glorious), is represented in the form of calligraphy.

The number 9 is regarded as possessing important mystical properties and is sometimes used for decoration. The Baha'i place of worship is called in Arabic the mashriq al-adhkar (which means the "place where the uttering of the name of God arises at dawn"). The mashriq is a nine sided building in keeping with the mystical qualities of the number 9.

Adherents

There are Baha'i communities in most countries of the world. It is estimated that there are between 3 to 4 million Baha'is in the world today (Harris et al 1994, 30). The largest Baha'i community is in India with about 1 million members. In Iran the Baha'is remain the largest minority group with about 300,000 adherents (ibid.).

Headquarters / Main Centre

The international Baha'i centre is located in Haifa, Israel. J.I.McGrath
Overview of World Religions Project


Bahaullah

{bah - hah - ul - lah'}

General Information

Bahaullah ("Splendor of God") is the title assumed around 1866 by the Iranian religious leader Mirza Husayn Ali, b. Nov. 12, 1817. He proclaimed himself to be the person announced by the Bab as the one who would bring his work to completion. The Baha'i movement, which arose from Bahaullah's teaching, spread as far as Europe and the United States during the time of Abbas Effendi, the son and successor of Bahaullah. The latter died, while in exile in Acre, Palestine, on May 29, 1897.

Willem A Bijlefeld

Bibliography:
S Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah (1974); W M Miller, The Baha'i Faith: Its History and Teachings (1974).


Babism

{bah' - bizm}

General Information

Babism is a religious movement founded by Mirza Ali Muhammad of Shiraz (Iran), who announced his divine election as the Bab in 1844. This title, meaning "doorway to knowledge," was understood by many to imply that Muhammad of Shiraz claimed to have received a divine manifestation surpassing in significance the revelation granted to the prophet Muhammed, and that his book of revelation, the Bayan, overshadowed the Koran.

Understandably, serious tensions arose, and the Bab was executed (1850). When an attempt to assassinate the Shah failed in 1852, the persecution of the Babis intensified. The Bab's successor fled to Baghdad with his half brother Mirza Husayn Ali, who was later on recognized by most followers as the Bahaullah ("Splendor of God"). The religious movement led by the Bahaullah became known as Baha'i.

Willem A Bijlefeld

Bibliography:
H M Balyuzi, The Bab (1973); W M Miller, The Baha'i Faith: Its History and Teachings (1974); P Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions (1987).


Babis

Advanced Information

Doctrines

The Babis follow the teaching of Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-50), who is known as the Bab (the "gate"). He was regarded by his followers as the "Gate of God" and later as the Hidden Imam who would bring to an end Islamic law and inau gurate a new prophetic cycle. Prior to his death the Bab prophesied the coming of a messianic figure whom he called 'Him whom God shall make manifest'. The holy book of the Babis is the Bayan (Declaration).

History

The Babis emerged in a period of great millenarian expectations, for the year 1844 was to mark the 1000th anniversary of the disappearance of the twelfth Imam. In this year Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi claimed himself to be the Gate to the Hidden Imam. Later, he actually identified himself as the Hidden Imam, and gained many followers. A series of violent insurrections by the Bab's followers led to his arrest in 1845 and execution in 1850. The movement itself was violently persecuted, with its followers either exiled to Baghdad or imprisoned and executed. Among those exiled was Mirza Husayn 'Ali Nuri, who in 1864 proclaimed himself to be the prophet foretold by the movement's founder. The movement then split between those who accepted Mirza Husayn's claim (later known as Baha'is) and the minority (the Azalis) who continued to follow the then leader Subh-i Azal. Since the 19th century the movement has declined in strength and today perhaps only a few hundred Babis remain.

Symbols

The number 19 assumed an important symbolic value within the Babi tradition, providing the basis upon which communal organization and the Babi calendar is based. Babis also wear talismans and engraved stones around their necks or ringstones in order to protect them from misfortune.

Adherents

There are very few Babis today, perhaps only a few hundred.

Headquarters / Main Centre

The movement has no headquarters as such. Its adherents are dotted around Iran.

J.I.McGrath
Overview of World Religions Project


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