The Baha’is: One of the World’s Newest Religions

by Charles A. Frazee

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The three great historical religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, agree that there will be no new revelation to change or amend the teaching of Moses, Jesus or Muhammed. In the 19th century this premise was challenged by the teaching of the Baha’i faith, one of the world’s newest and most persecuted religions. Baha’is believe that God revealed His word to their founder Baha’u’llah.

Baha’u’llah was the messianic figure who would usher in an age of peace and prosperity that was foretold in Islam’s sacred scripture, the Koran, according to the Baha’is. For the Bahai there is one God that man has called different names through the ages. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddah and Muhammed brought divine teaching to their periods in history. Baha’is believe that since each prophet originated from a single God, they proclaim the same spiritual truth. Each faith has been adapted to meet the specific needs of its age. Progressive revelation is the term Baha’is give to this unfolding of religion and they regard Baha’u’llah as God’s messenger for this age.

Because of this belief in progressive revelation, Baha’i men and women of different religious backgrounds are able to overcome their diversity and work together for the unity of mankind. Baha’is strive to eliminate prejudice of all kinds, sexual discrimination and extreme wealth and poverty. They aim to establish a universal language and a universal educational system in addition to a world government. Baha’i faithful seek harmony between science and religion and work to protect cultural diversity.

There are no specific forms of worship, sacraments or clergy in the Baha’i faith. Worship is considered any work done in the spirit of service.

Baha’i faith originated in Shi’ite Islam but combines elements of Unitarianism and Ramakrishnan Hinduism. Unitarianism stresses individual freedom and a united world community. The sect of Ramakrishnan Hindus believe that all religions are one.

Beliefs on which the Baha’i faith is based were first promulgated in Persia in 1844 by a young merchant known as the Bab or the “Gate”, signifying the gate between God and man. The Bab taught that one much greater than he was to appear. Many people thought the Bab to be the manifestation of God and started to follow him. The Babs, as they were known, suffered severe persecution at the hands of the shah and religious leaders. These leaders were unconvinced of the Bab’s divine mission and arrested him. His imprisonment only increased the Babs zeal. The Bab, condemned to die, is said to have escaped a firing squad death once and was killed on the second attempt only because he willed it.

Following the Bab’s death, the shah launched a purge of nearly 20,000 Babs. Two half-brothers, singled out by the Bab as possible successors, escaped the persecution.

One of the brothers, Baha’u’llah, which means Splendor of God in Persian, revealed that he was the long awaited manifestation of God, the successor of the Bab. He was ordered to Edirne in Turkey where he was not a threat to the Persian Government.

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Tags: Unity Islam Church history Baha'i