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Bahá'í Glossary

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

A list of commonly used terminology used in Baha'i Faith language and Baha'i writings and a short description of each term.

`Abdu'l-Bahá: (1844-1921) Son of Bahá'u'lláh, designated His successor and authorized interpreter of His writings. Named `Abbás after His grandfather, `Abdu'l-Bahá was known to the general public as `Abbás Effendi. Bahá'u'lláh gave Him such titles as "the Most Great Branch," "the Mystery of God," and "the Master." After Bahá'u'lláh's passing, He chose the name `Abdu'l-Bahá, meaning "Servant of Bahá'u'lláh."

Administrative Order: The system of administration as conceived by Bahá'u'lláh, formally established by `Abdu'l-Bahá, and realized during the Guardianship of Shoghi Effendi. It consists, on the one hand, of a series of elected councils, universal, national, and local, in which are invested legislative, executive, and judicial powers over the Bahá'í community, and, on the other hand, of eminent and devoted Bahá'ís appointed for the specific purpose of propagation and protection of the Faith under the guidance of the Head of that Faith, the Universal House of Justice.

Arc: An arc cut into Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, along which the international administrative buildings of the Bahá'í Faith are being built.

Archives Building, International: The International Archives is the first building to be built on the Arc and holds the collection of personal relics of Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, original manuscripts and Tablets in the handwriting of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb, and other items associated with the Bahá’í Faith.

Auxiliary Boards: An institution created by Shoghi Effendi in 1954 to assist the Hands of the Cause of God. When the institution of the Continental Boards of Counsellors was established in 1968 by the Universal House of Justice, the Auxiliary Boards were placed under its direction.

Báb, the: The title, meaning "Gate," assumed by Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad, who was the Prophet-Founder of the Bábí Faith and the Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh. Born 20 October 1819, the Báb proclaimed Himself to be the Promised One of Islám and announced that His mission was to alert the people to the imminent advent of "Him Whom God shall make manifest," namely, Bahá'u'lláh. Because of these claims, the Báb was executed by order of Náziri'd-Dín Sháh on 9 July 1850.

Bahá'í Era: The period of the Bahá'í calendar beginning with the Declaration of the Báb on 23 May 1844, and expected to last until the next appearance of a Manifestation (Prophet) of God after the expiration of at least one thousand years.

Bahá'í International Community: A name used generally in reference to the worldwide Bahá'í community and officially in that community's external relations. In the latter context, the Bahá'í International Community is an association of the National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world and functions as an international non-governmental organization. Its offices include its Secretariat at the Bahá'í World Centre, a United Nations Office in New York with a branch in Geneva, an Office of Public Information, an Office of the Environment, and an Office for the Advancement of Women.

Bahá'í World Centre: The spiritual and administrative center of the Bahá'í Faith, located in the twin cities of `Akká and Haifa, in Israel.

Bahá'u'lláh: Title assumed by Mírzá Husayn-`Alí, Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Born on 12 November 1817, He declared His mission as the Promised One of all Ages in April 1863 and passed away in `Akká , Palestine, on 29 May 1892 after forty years of imprisonment, banishment, and house arrest. Bahá'u'lláh's writings are considered by Bahá'ís to be direct revelation from God.

Centre for the Study of the Texts: It houses the Research Department, and is the temporary home of the International Bahá’í Library and other offices.

Consultation: A form of discussion between individuals and within groups which requires the subjugation of egotism so that all ideas can be shared and evaluated with frankness, courtesy, and openness of mind, and decisions arrived at can be wholeheartedly supported. Its guiding principles were elaborated by `Abdu'l-Bahá.

Continental Boards of Counsellors: An institution created in 1968 by the Universal House of Justice to extend into the future the work of the institution of the Hands of the Cause of God, particularly its appointed functions of protection and propagation. With the passing of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, there was no way for additional Hands of the Cause to be appointed. The duties of the Counsellors include directing the Auxiliary Boards in their respective areas, advising and collaborating with National Spiritual Assemblies, and keeping the Universal House of Justice informed concerning the conditions of the Faith in their areas. Counsellors are appointed for terms of five years.

Convention: A gathering called at a regional, national, or international level for consultation on matters affecting the welfare of the Bahá'í community and for the purpose, respectively, of electing delegates to a National Convention, electing the members of a National Spiritual Assembly, or electing the members of the Universal House of Justice.

Feast: The centrepiece of Bahá'í community life is the Nineteen Day Feast. Held once every 19 days, it is the local community's regular worship gathering-and more.

German Templer Colony: Group of houses with red-tiled roofs at the foot of Mount Carmel that once housed members of the Society of the Temple, founded in Germany in the mid-1800s. Templers foregathered in Haifa in 1863 to await the second coming of Christ.

Hands of the Cause of God: Individuals appointed first by Bahá'u'lláh, and others named later by Shoghi Effendi, who were charged with the specific duties of protecting and propagating the Faith. With the passing of Shoghi Effendi there is no further possibility for appointing Hands of the Cause; hence, in order to extend into the future the important functions of propagation and protection, the Universal House of Justice in 1968 created Continental Boards of Counsellors and in 1973 established the International Teaching Centre, which coordinates their work.

Holy Days: Eleven days commemorating significant Bahá'í anniversaries, on nine of which work is suspended.

Huqúqu'lláh: Arabic for "the Right of God." As instituted in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, payment to "the Authority in the Cause to whom all must turn" (at present, the Universal House of Justice) of nineteen percent of what remains to one's personal income after one's essential expenses have been covered. Funds generated by the payment of Huqúqu'lláh are used for the promotion of the Faith and for the welfare of society.

International Teaching Centre: An institution established in 1973 by the Universal House of Justice to bring to fruition the work of the Hands of the Cause of God in the Holy Land and to provide for its extension into the future. The duties of the International Teaching Centre include coordinating, stimulating, and directing the activities of the Continental Boards of Counsellors and acting as liaison between them and the Universal House of Justice. The membership of the Teaching Centre comprises all the surviving Hands of the Cause and also nine Counsellors appointed by the Universal House of Justice. The seat of the International Teaching Centre is located at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.

Knight of Bahá'u'lláh: Title initially given by Shoghi Effendi to those Bahá'ís who arose to open specified new territories to the Faith during the first year of the Ten Year Crusade (1953-1963) and subsequently applied to those who first reached the remaining unopened territories on the list at a later date.

Lesser Peace: A political peace to be established by the nations of the world in order to bring about an end to war. Its establishment will prepare the way for the Most Great Peace, a condition of permanent peace and world unity to be founded on the spiritual principles and institutions of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and signalizing humanity's coming of age.

Local Spiritual Assembly: The local administrative body in the Bahá'í Faith, ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The nine members are directly elected by secret ballot each year at Ridván from among the adult believers in a community.

Monument Gardens: Beautifully landscaped gardens at the heart of the Arc on Mount Carmel where befitting monuments have been erected over the graves of the daughter and wife of Bahá'u'lláh, His son who died in prison in `Akká, and also the wife of `Abdu'l-Bahá.

Mount Carmel: The mountain spoken of by Isaiah as the "mountain of the Lord." Site of the Bahá'í World Centre including several Bahá'í holy places, the most important of which are the Shrine of the Báb and the Monument Gardens.

National Spiritual Assembly: The national administrative body in the Bahá'í Faith, ordained in the Bahá'í sacred writings, with authority over all activities and affairs of the Bahá'í Faith throughout its area. Among its duties are to stimulate, unify, and coordinate the manifold activities of Local Spiritual Assemblies and of individual Bahá'ís within its jurisdiction. The members of National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world constitute the electoral college for the Universal House of Justice. At Ridván 1998, there were 179 National or Regional Spiritual Assemblies. See also Regional Spiritual Assembly.

Nineteen Day Feast: The principal gathering in each local Bahá'í community, every Bahá'í month, for the threefold purpose of worship, consultation, and fellowship.

Pioneer: Any Bahá'í who arises and leaves his or her home to journey to another country for the purpose of teaching the Bahá'í Faith. "Homefront pioneer" is used to describe those who move to areas within their own country that have yet to be exposed to the Bahá'í Faith or where the Bahá'í community needs strengthening.

Regional Spiritual Assembly: An institution identical in function to the National Spiritual Assembly but including a number of countries or regions in its jurisdiction, often established as a precursor to the formation of a National Spiritual Assembly in each of the countries it encompasses.

Ridván: Arabic for "Paradise." Twelve-day festival (from 21 April through 2 May) commemorating Bahá'u'lláh's declaration of His mission to His companions in 1863 in the Garden of Ridván in Baghdad.

Ridván Garden, Akka: The Ridván Garden, located outside the city of ‘Akká, was rented by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1875 and prepared for Bahá’u’lláh's use. Bahá’u’lláh visited this garden many times during the latter part of His life.

Seat of the Universal House of Justice: The building on the Arc of Mount Carmel which houses the council chamber and offices of the Universal House of Justice.

Shoghi Effendi Rabbání: (1897-1957) The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith after the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, designated in His Will and Testament as His successor in interpreting the Bahá'í writings and as Head of the Faith.

Shrine of `Abdu'l-Baha: The resting place of `Abdu'l-Baha within the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.

Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh: The resting place of Bahá'u'lláh's mortal remains, located near the city of `Akká, Israel. The Shrine is the holiest spot on earth to Bahá'ís and a place of pilgrimage.

Shrine of the Báb: The resting place of the Báb's mortal remains, located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, a sacred site to Bahá'ís, and a place of pilgrimage.

Tablet: Divinely revealed scripture. In Bahá'í scripture, the term is used to denote writings revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, and `Abdu'l-Bahá.

Ten Year Crusade: 1953-1963. Ten-Year Plan for teaching the Bahá'í Faith initiated by Shoghi Effendi, which culminated with the election of the Universal House of Justice, during the centenary of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh. The objectives of the Crusade were: the development of the institutions at the World Centre; the consolidation of the communities of the participating National Spiritual Assemblies, and the opening of the main unopened territories. See also Knight of Bahá'u'lláh.

Universal House of Justice: Head of the Bahá'í Faith after the passing of Shoghi Effendi, and the supreme administrative body ordained by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His Book of Laws. The Universal House of Justice is elected every five years by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies, who gather at an International Convention. The House of Justice was elected for the first time in 1963. It occupied its permanent Seat on Mount Carmel in 1983.

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