What is the Baha'i Faith ?
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
An Introduction to a World Community
Founded a century and a half ago, the Baha'i Faith is today among the fastest growing of world religions. With around seven million followers in at least 232 countries and dependent territories, it has already become the second-most widespread faith, surpassing every religion but Christianity in its geographic reach. Baha'is reside in more than 116,000 localities around the world, an an expansion that reflects their dedication to the ideal of world citizenship.
The Baha'i Faith's global scope is mirrored in the composition of its membership. Representing a cross section of humanity, Baha'is come from virtually every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession and social or economic class. More than 2,100 different ethnic and tribal groups are represented.
Since it also forms a single community, free of schism or factions, the Baha'i Faith comprises what is very likely the most diverse and widespread organized body of people on earth.
The Faith's Founder was Baha'u'llah, a Persian nobleman from Teheran who, in the mid-nineteenth century, gave up a princely existence of comfort and security for a life of persecution and deprivation.
Baha'u'llah claimed to be nothing less than a new and independent Messenger from God. His life, work and influence parallel that of Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad. Baha'is view Baha'u'llah as the most recent in this succession of Divine Messengers.
"This is the Day in which God's most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things." -Baha'u'llah
The essential message of Baha'u'llah is that of unity. He taught that there is only one God, that there is only one human race, and that all the world's religions have been stages in the revelation of God's will and purpose for humanity. In this day, Baha'u'llah said, humanity has collectively come of age. As foretold in all of the world's scriptures, the time has arrived for the uniting of all peoples into a peaceful and integrated global society. "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens," He wrote.
The youngest of the world's independent religions, the Faith founded by Baha'u'llah stands out from other religions in a number of ways. It has a unique system of global administration, with freely elected governing councils in more than 18,000 localities.
It takes a distinctive (and sometimes radical) approach to contemporary social problems. The Faith's scriptures and the multifarious activities of its membership address virtually every important trend in the world today, from the new thinking about cultural diversity and environmental conservation to the decentralization of decision-making; from a renewed commitment to family life and morality to the call for a "New World Order."
The Faith's most distinctive accomplishment by far, however, is its unity. Unlike every other religion--not to mention most social and political movements--the Baha'i Faith has successfully resisted the perennial impulse to break into sects and sub-groups. It has maintained its unity despite a history as turbulent as that of any religion of antiquity.
In the hundred years since Baha'u'llah lived, the process of global unification for which He called has become well-advanced. Through historical processes, the traditional barriers of race, class, creed and nation have steadily broken down. The forces at work, Baha'u'llah predicted, will eventually give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and assist in the creation of this new world.
For a global society to flourish, Baha'u'llah said, it must be based on certain fundamental principles. They 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; 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.
Baha'is around the world express their commitment to these principles chiefly through individual and community transformation. Among other ways, commitment is reflected in the large number of small-scale, grassroots-based social and economic development projects that Baha'i communities have launched in recent years.
In building a unified network of local, national and international governing councils, Baha'u'llah's followers have created a far-flung and diverse worldwide community--marked by a distinctive pattern of life and activity--which offers an encouraging model for cooperation, harmony and social action. In a world so divided in its loyalties, this is in- itself a singular achievement.