What do Baha'is Believe?

Updated: Apr 9

Social and Moral Teachings

There has never been a futurist, a forecaster, or a prophet whose vision has so accurately foreseen the critical features of the landscape before humanity.


One of the extraordinary features of the writings of Baha'u'llah is the degree to which they accurately forecast the cutting edge issues that humanity has increasingly faced.


Throughout His writings, Baha'u'llah called for a complete restructuring of the global social order. His vision of renewal touches on all aspects of life, from personal morality to economics and governance; from community development to religious practice.


The central theme of Baha'u'llah's writings is that humanity is one single race and the day has come for its unification into one global society. Through an irresistible historical process, the traditional barriers of race, class, creed, faith and nation will break down. These forces will, Baha'u'llah said, give birth in time to a new universal civilization. The crises now afflicting the planet face all its peoples with the need to accept their oneness and work towards the creation of a unified global society.


Baha'u'llah outlined certain fundamental principles upon which this new world civilization should be founded. These include the elimination of all forms of prejudice; full equality between the sexes; recognition of the essential oneness of the world's great religions; the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth; universal education; a high standard of personal conduct; the harmony of science and religion; a sustainable balance between nature and technology; and the establishment of a world federal system, based on collective security and the oneness of humanity.


Covering questions pertaining to the role of women, race relations, economic justice, environmental degradation, and world order, these principles illustrate the concerns that have fuelled the century's most dynamic movements. And, accordingly, they have come to head the social and political agenda of humanity.


There has never been a futurist, a forecaster, or a prophet whose vision has so accurately foreseen the critical features of the social landscape. Far from fading, a century after He lived, the issues Baha'u'llah focused on have come to dominate the collective life of humanity.


Unity the Theme

The Baha'i Faith's progressive approach to human society originates with Baha'u'llah's emphasis on unity. Indeed, if one were to characterize His teachings in a single word, that word would be unity.


Throughout His writings, Baha'u'llah emphasized the importance--and the reality--of unity and oneness. First, God is one. All of the world's great religions are also one. They represent humanity's responses to the revelations of the word and will of God for humanity by successive Messengers from the one God. These understandings lie at the heart of the concept of unity in Baha'u'llah's teachings.


From this fundamental concept of Divine and religious unity, other principles emerge. Baha'u'llah teaches that all humans, as creations of the one God, are also one people. Distinctions of race, nation, class or ethnic origin are ephemeral when understood in this context. Likewise, any notions of individual, tribal, provincial or national superiority are discarded in the Baha'i Faith. Speaking through Baha'u'llah, the voice of God proclaims:

"Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest."

The Oneness of Humanity


The idea that all humanity is one race forms the foundation for the other principles of social justice in the Baha'i Faith. Baha'u'llah condemned racial and ethnic prejudice, urging:

"Close your eyes to racial differences, and welcome all with the light of oneness."

Baha'u'llah also unequivocally proclaimed the equality of the sexes-at a time when the women's movement was only beginning its fight for suffrage in the West and such ideas were unheard of in the Middle East-thus becoming the first Founder of a world religion to explicitly uphold strict equality for women and men.


Indeed, girls should receive priority in education--if by some circumstance a family (or a society) cannot afford to educate its children equally. The Baha'i scriptures state:

"Until the reality of equality between men and women is fully established and attained, the highest social development of mankind is not possible."

This challenge to full equality does not ignore natural differences between the sexes. Baha'u'llah emphasized the importance of motherhood, fatherhood and family life.

"Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God." - Baha'u'llah

Baha'u'llah's call for economic justice also reflects His central theme of human oneness. He wrote extensively about the necessity of promoting economic justice and proposed specific remedies to help control the extreme inequalities of wealth in human society. The redistribution of wealth through a tax on income, for example, and the concept of profit-sharing are both promoted in His teachings.

"He Who is your lord, the All-Merciful, cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body."- Baha'u'llah

This challenge to full equality does not ignore natural differences between the sexes. Baha'u'llah emphasized the importance of motherhood, fatherhood and family life.


Baha'u'llah's call for economic justice also reflects His central theme of human oneness. He wrote extensively about the necessity of promoting economic justice and proposed specific remedies to help control the extreme inequalities of wealth in human society. The redistribution of wealth through a tax on income, for example, and the concept of profit-sharing are both promoted in His teachings.


Education is given a special emphasis as humanity is considered capable of tremendous progress and advancement. "Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value," wrote Baha'u'llah. "Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom."


Education, accordingly, should be universal and should incorporate positive spiritual values and moral attitudes. Baha'is envision a future in which even "basic education" goes beyond rote learning and the teaching of simple skills. Students must be given the tools to analyze social conditions and requirements themselves, to take part in community planning and action, and to investigate truth on their own. The oneness of humanity is an essential element of every Baha'i curriculum.


Science and Religion


The theme of unity also emerges in Baha'u'llah's teachings on science. His writings portray science and religion as different yet harmonious approaches to the comprehension of reality. These two paths are essentially compatible and mutually reinforcing.


Scientific method is humanity's tool for understanding the physical side of the universe. It can describe the composition of an atomic nucleus or the molecular structure of DNA. It is the key to new technologies. Science cannot, however, guide us in the use of such knowledge. The revelation of God offers to humanity a basis for values and purpose. It provides answers to those questions of morals, human purpose, and our relationship to God that science cannot approach.


The independent investigation of reality, whether scientific or religious, is strongly encouraged in Baha'u'llah's writings. Individuals should strive, He said, to free themselves from prejudices, preconceptions and reliance on tradition or traditional authorities. Consultation is a critical tool for discovering truth. Baha'u'llah also called for the adoption of a universal auxiliary language as a means to promote unity.

"The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home." - Baha'u'llah

The term "auxiliary" is important: Baha'u'llah's injuction is not a mandate for cultural uniformity. Indeed, the Baha'i teachings both value and promote cultural diversity.


When first outlined by Baha'u'llah more than 100 years ago, these principles were as radical as any social program ever drafted. The fact that they have not only borne the passage of time, but, indeed, become ever more widely proclaimed and recognized is a testimony to the vision that produced them.


Baha'u'llah's moral code for the individual, and His pattern for marriage and family life are wholly consonant with the genuine needs of modern society. As with the social principles, the laws of Baha'u'llah on individual morality and family structure are aimed at the promotion of unity and well-being for society at large.

"They whom God hath endued with insight will readily recognize that the precepts laid down by God constitute the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples," -Baha'u'llah

This insight--that the standards for social justice and individual conduct outlined by Baha'u'llah offer an integrated and distinctive approach to the apparently intractable problems faced by humanity today--underlies the essential optimism of the worldwide Baha'i community. Whether considering the threat of environmental degradation, the cancer of racism, or the erosion of the family, Baha'is believe firmly that answers are available in the writings of Baha'u'llah. Their commitment is to share these insights with the world.

"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established" -Baha'u'llah

Women: unambiguous equality

For the first time in history, the Founder of a major world religion has explicitly stated that women and men are equal. The Baha'i writings also state that:

Girls should be given preference over boys when educational opportunities and resources are limited.

In Baha'i marriage, neither the husband nor the wife has a dominant voice.


Any apparent inequality between the capacities of women and men is due solely to the lack of educational opportunities so far open to women.


Around the world, women compose a high percentage of the elected national leadership in Baha'i governing bodies (National Spiritual Assemblies).


READ > Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men



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