Introduction to The Baha'i Faith
The Baha'i Faith began in Persia on 23rd May 1844, when a person known as the Bab (Gate) proclaimed that he was a Messenger from God and also the herald of 'the Promised One', a messenger greater than himself. He and his followers were severely persecuted by the Persian authorities and the Bab was finally executed in 1850.
In 1863 a person known as Baha'u'llah (the Glory of God) claimed to be the one whose coming the Bab had foretold. He announced that he had come to help bring about a new age of global civilization which would be characterized by unity and peace. Because of his personal influence and powerful teachings Baha'u'llah was banished from Persia, and later exiled to the prison fortress of Akka in Palestine. He died at a place called Bahji near Akka in 1892. Baha'u'llah's shrine in Bahji is today the holiest shrine of the Baha'i world and is both the spiritual and physical focus of the Baha'i global community.
The Baha'i Faith is an independent world religion which proclaims the oneness of God, religion and humankind. Baha'is believe that God reveals His purpose progressively through prophets such as the founders of all the major world religions which exist today.
Key Baha'i beliefs are, belief in one God; the unity of mankind; independent investigation of truth; the common foundation of all religions; the essential harmony of science and religion; equality of opportunity for men and women; elimination of prejudice of all kinds; universal compulsory education; the need for a universal auxiliary language; abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty; the protection of religious and cultural diversity, and the establishment of universal peace by a world government which will have international courts of justice.
Customs and practices
Baha'i custom and practice is founded on authenticated scripture written by Baha'u'llah. The focus of Baha'i community life is the Nineteen Day Feast when local Baha'is meet to worship, discuss the affairs of their faith and have fellowship together. Obligations on individual Baha'is include daily prayer and keeping a yearly nineteen day fast when no food is consumed from sunrise to sunset. The affairs of the Baha'i faith are administered by 'Spiritual Assemblies' which consist of nine people elected by the Baha'i community. These democratic assemblies operate at local, national and international level. The international administrative body is known as the Universal House of Justice and is based on Mount Carmel in Israel.
Places of worship
World wide, the Baha'i faith has a temple on every continent where Baha'is and people of every faith can come and worship God. Depending on the size of their community, Baha'is may worship at their local centre or meet to worship in individual homes.
Festivals and holy days are based on the birthdays of important figures of the Baha'i faith or significant events in the history of the faith. The birthday of Baha'u'llah, for example, would be an important holy day and is celebrated on the 12th of November.
Food and diet
Baha'is do not have food laws as such but are advised to eat moderately and keep to a balanced, healthy diet. They do not drink alcohol and drug-taking is not allowed unless prescribed by a competent doctor.
Concerns of the community
Baha'is are concerned about anything that leads to conflict or disunity in the community or in the world. To this end, they are encouraged to support activities which further one or all of the principles of their faith. Baha'is are encouraged to protect the interests of their community and country but are also expected to take on the role and responsibility of world citizens.
"The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens"
Original source (page is no longer active): www.st-andrews.ac.uk/staff/wellbeing/faith/thebahaifaith/