By Janet Wilson-Sheppherd, IACO Council Member
The Bahá’í faith is an independent religion founded by Baha’u'llah, a title meaning “The Glory of God,” that emphasizes the spiritual unity of all mankind.
The fundamental principles of the Bahá’í faith are: the oneness of humanity; the unity of all religions; the elimination of all forms of prejudice; the harmony between science and religion; the equality of women and men; the importance of universal education; the adoption of an universal auxiliary language; the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth; the exaltation of work in the spirit of service; the independent investigation of the truth; the centrality of justice in all human endeavors; and the establishment of world peace.
Bahá’ís believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future society and the nature and purpose of life. Such a vision unfolds in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh. The Bahá'í teachings recognize the divine origin of several world religions as different stages in history of one religion from God. Progressive revelation, a core teaching in the Bahá'í Faith, says that religious truth is revealed by God progressively and cyclically over time through a series of divine Messengers, who are called the Manifestations of God; their teachings are tailored to suit the needs of the time and place of their appearance. These teachings awaken in whole populations capacities to contribute to the advancement of civilization to an extent never before possible. Believing that the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is the most recent religion, and therefore the most relevant to modern society, the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is available and applicable to all people in the world, and the religion has been translated into many languages.
The Bahá’í Writings explain that the reality of God is beyond the understanding of any mortal mind, though we may find expressions of His attributes in every created thing. We draw closer to God as we learn to reflect God’s attributes, which are called virtues. The beauty, richness and diversity of the natural world are also expressions of the attributes of God. This inspires in us deep respect for nature. Humanity has the capacity to emancipate itself from the world of nature and, as steward of the planet’s vast resources, it is responsible for using the earth’s raw materials in a way that preserves harmony and contributes to the advancement of civilization.
Humanity, having passed through the ages of infancy and childhood, now stands at the threshold of its collective maturity, the hallmark of which will be the unification of the human race in a global civilization. The emergence of this civilization, prosperous in both its spiritual and material dimensions, implies that the spiritual and practical aspects of life are to advance harmoniously together.
The Bahá’í faith revolves around the concept of service. Bahá’ís strive to integrate service into all aspects of our lives inspired by our love of God. Selfless acts of service transcend the beautiful utterance of prayers and translates to concrete steps that will promote global unity and prosperity.
In order to solve problems and to discover truth, Bahá’ís are asked to consult with each other in all things. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh:
“The Great Being saith: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.”
Bahá’í consultation is to be undertaken with the utmost love, sincerity, and unity. Its participants must come together in a prayerful attitude, seeking assistance from the Realm of Glory, expressing their thoughts freely, surrendering all attachment to their individual opinions, and giving fair-minded and careful consideration to the views of others, in an effort to reach consensus. The key phrases used in consultation are “frank and loving” and “humble attitude of learning.” “Say: no man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.”
This has been an overview of the Bahá’í faith, and there is much more to learn, including the history, further teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, the administrative order, Holy Places, prayers, worship, various activities, God’s Covenant, personal transformation, and the transformation of society. It is all part of God’s Plan to guide mankind in our path toward achieving God’s Kingdom on earth.
You can learn more at www.bahai.org