This article is about the global religious community. For other related uses, see Bahai (disambiguation).
The Bahá’í Faith (Persian:ﺑﻬﺎﺋﯿﺖ Bahá’iyyat, Arabic:
Seat of the Universal House of Justice, governing body of the Bahá’ís, in Haifa, Israel
بهائيةBahá’iyya /bəˈhaɪ/[note 1]) is a monotheistic religion
which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind.
Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teach-ings and doctrine: the unity of God, that there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual sourceandcomefromthesameGod; andtheunityofhu-manity, that all humans have been created equal, coupled with the unity in diversity, that diversity of race and cul-ture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.
AccordingtotheBahá’íFaith’steachings, thehumanpur-pose is to learn to know and to love God through such methods as prayer, reﬂection and being of service to hu-manity.
The Bahá’í Faith was founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 19th-century Persia. Bahá’u’lláh was exiled for his teachings from Persia to the Ottoman Empire and died while oﬃ-cially still a prisoner. After Bahá’u’lláh’s death, under the leadership of his son, `Abdu’l-Bahá, the religion spread from its Persian and Ottoman roots, and gained a footing in Europe and America, and was consolidated in Iran, where it suﬀers intense persecution. After the death of `Abdu’l-Bahá, the leadership of the Bahá’í community entered a new phase, evolving from a single individual to an administrative order with both elected bodies and appointed individuals. There are probably more than 5 million Bahá’ís around the world in more than 200 coun-
tries and territories.[note 2]
In the Bahá’í Faith, religious history is seen to have un-
folded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and to the capacity of the people. These mes-sengers have included Abrahamic ﬁgures—Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, as well as Indian ones—Krishna, Buddha, and others. For Bahá’ís, the most recent messengers are the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. In Bahá’í belief, each con-secutive messenger prophesied of messengers to follow, and Bahá’u’lláh’s life and teachings fulﬁlled the end-time promises of previous scriptures. Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, and the need of thepresenttimeisforthegradualestablishmentofpeace, justice and unity on a global scale.
The word Bahá’í is used either as an adjective to refer to the Bahá’í Faith or as a term for a follower of Bahá’u’lláh.
Thewordisnotanounmeaningthereligionasawhole. ItisderivedfromtheArabicBahá’ (بهاء),meaning“glory”
or “splendor”.[note 3] The term “Bahaism” (or “Baha’ism”) is still used, mainly in a pejorative sense.
Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teach-ings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of reli-gion, and the unity of humanity. From these postulates stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers, whose purpose is to trans-form the character of humankind and to develop, within those who respond, moral and spiritual qualities. Reli-gion is thus seen as orderly, uniﬁed, and progressive from age to age.
Main article: God in the Bahá’í Faith
TheBahá’íwritingsdescribeasingle,personal,inaccessi-ble,omniscient,omnipresent,imperishable,andalmighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe.
The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end. Though inacces-sible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of creation,withawillandpurposethatisexpressedthrough messengers termed Manifestations of God.
Bahá’í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, or to create a complete and accu-rate image of, by themselves. Therefore, human under-standing of God is achieved through his revelations via his Manifestations. In the Bahá’í religion, God is often referred to by titles and attributes (for example, the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving), and there is a sub-stantial emphasis on monotheism; such doctrines as the Trinity are seen as compromising, if not contradicting, the Bahá’í view that God is single and has no equal.
TheBahá’íteachingsstatethattheattributeswhichareap-plied to God are used to translate Godliness into human terms and also to help individuals concentrate on their own attributes in worshipping God to develop their po-tentialities on their spiritual path. According to the
Bahá’í teachings the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer, reﬂection, and being of service to others.
Main article: Bahá’í Faith and the unity of religion See also: Progressive revelation (Bahá’í)
Bahá’í notions of progressive religious revelation result in their accepting the validity of the well known religions of the world, whose founders and central ﬁgures are seen as ManifestationsofGod. Religioushistoryisinterpretedas a series of dispensations, where each manifestation brings a somewhat broader and more advanced revelation that
is rendered as a text of scripture and passed on through history with greater or lesser reliability but at least true in substance, suited for the time and place in which it was expressed. Speciﬁc religious social teachings (for example, the direction of prayer, or dietary restrictions) may be revoked by a subsequent manifestation so that a more appropriate requirement for the time and place may beestablished. Conversely,certaingeneralprinciples(for example, neighbourliness, or charity) are seen to be uni-versalandconsistent. InBahá’íbelief,thisprocessofpro-gressive revelation will not end; however, it is believed to be cyclical. Bahá’ís do not expect a new manifesta-tion of God to appear within 1000 years of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation.
Bahá’í beliefs are sometimes described as syncretic com-binations of earlier religious beliefs. Bahá’ís, how-ever, assert that their religion is a distinct tradition with its own scriptures, teachings, laws, and history.
While the religion was initially seen as a sect of Is-lam, most religious specialists now see it as an indepen-dent religion, with its religious background in Shi’a Is-lam being seen as analogous to the Jewish context in which Christianity was established. Muslim institu-tions and clergy, both Sunni and Shia, consider Bahá’ís to be deserters or apostates from Islam, which has led to Bahá’ís being persecuted. Bahá’ís describe their faith as an independent world religion, diﬀering from the other traditions in its relative age and in the appropriate-ness of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to the modern context.
Bahá’u’lláh is believed to have fulﬁlled the messianic ex-pectations of these precursor faiths.
2.3 Human beings
TheBahá’íwritingsstatethathumanbeingshavea“ratio-nal soul”, and that this provides the species with a unique capacity to recognize God’s station and humanity’s rela-tionship with its creator. Every human is seen to have a duty to recognize God through His messengers, and to conform to their teachings. Through recognition and obedience, service to humanity and regular prayer and spiritual practice, the Bahá’í writings state that the soul becomesclosertoGod, thespiritualidealinBahá’íbelief. When a human dies, the soul passes into the next world, where its spiritual development in the physical world be-comes a basis for judgment and advancement in the spir-itual world. Heaven and Hell are taught to be spiritual states of nearness or distance from God that describe re-lationships in this world and the next, and not physical placesofrewardandpunishmentachievedafterdeath.
The Bahá’í writings emphasize the essential equality of human beings, and the abolition of prejudice. Humanity is seen as essentially one, though highly varied; its diver-sity of race and culture are seen as worthy of apprecia-tion and acceptance. Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, social class, and gender-based hierarchy are seen as artiﬁcial impediments to unity. The Bahá’í teachings state that the uniﬁcation of humanity is the paramount is-sue in the religious and political conditions of the present world.
Main article: Bahá’í teachings
Shoghi Eﬀendi, the appointed head of the religion from 1921 to 1957, wrote the following summary of what he considered to be the distinguishing principles of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, which, he said, together with the laws and ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas constitute the bedrock of the Bahá’í Faith:
The independent search after truth, unfet-tered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal princi-ple and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory educa-tion; the adoption of a universal auxiliary lan-guage; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between na-tions; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the gloriﬁcation of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind— thesestandoutastheessentialelements[which Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed].
3.2 Social principles
The following principles are frequently listed as a quick summary of the Bahá’í teachings. They are derived from transcripts of speeches given by `Abdu’l-Bahá dur-ing his tour of Europe and North America in 1912. The list is not authoritative and a variety of such lists circulate.
• Unity of God
• Unity of religion
• Unity of humanity
• Unity in diversity
• Equality between men and women
• Elimination of all forms of prejudice
• World peace and a New world order
• Harmony of religion and science
• Independent investigation of truth
• Principle of Ever-Advancing Civilization
• Universal compulsory education
• Universal auxiliary language[note 4]
• Obedience to government and non-involvement in
partisan politics unless submission to law amounts to a denial of Faith.[note 5]
• Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
With speciﬁc regard to the pursuit of world peace, Bahá’u’lláh prescribed a world-embracing collective se-curity arrangement as necessary for the establishment of a lasting peace.
3.3 Mystical teachings
Although the Bahá’í teachings have a strong emphasis on social and ethical issues, there exist a number of founda-tional texts that have been described as mystical. The
Seven Valleys is considered Bahá’u’lláh’s “greatest mysti-cal composition.” It was written to a follower of Suﬁsm, in the style of `Attar, The Persian Muslim poet, and sets forth the stages of the soul’s journey towards God. It was ﬁrst translated into English in 1906, becoming one of the earliest available books of Bahá’u’lláh to the West. The Hidden Words is another book written by Bahá’u’lláh during the same period, containing 153 short passagesinwhichBahá’u’lláhclaimstohavetakentheba-sic essence of certain spiritual truths and written them in brief form.
Main article: Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh
The Bahá’í teachings speak of both a “Greater Covenant”, being universal and endless, and a “Lesser
Covenant”, being unique to each religious dispensation. The Lesser Covenant is viewed as an agreement between a Messenger of God and his followers and includes social practices and the continuation of authority in the religion. At this time Bahá’ís view Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation as a binding lesser covenant for his followers; in the Bahá’í writings being ﬁrm in the covenant is considered a virtue to work toward. The Greater Covenant is viewed as a more enduring agreement between God and humanity, where a Manifestation of God is expected to come to humanity about every thousand years, at times of turmoil and uncertainty. With unity as an essential teaching of the religion, Bahá’ís follow an administration they believe is divinely ordained, and therefore see attempts to create schisms and divisions as eﬀorts that are contrary to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Schisms have occurred over the succession of authority, but any Bahá’í divisions have had relatively little success and have failed to attract a
sizeable following. The followers of such divisions are regarded as Covenant-breakers and shunned, essentially excommunicated.
4 Canonical texts
Main article: Bahá’í literature
The canonical texts are the writings of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Eﬀendi and the Universal House of Justice, and the authenticated talks of `Abdu’l-Bahá. The writings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are considered as divine revelation, the writings and talks of `Abdu’l-Bahá and the writings of Shoghi Eﬀendi as authoritative interpretation, and those of the Universal House of Justice as authoritative legislation and elucida-tion. Some measure of divine guidance is assumed for all of these texts. Some of Bahá’u’lláh’s most important writingsincludetheKitáb-i-Aqdas,literallytheMostHoly Book, which is his book of laws, the Kitáb-i-Íqán, lit-erallytheBookofCertitude,whichbecamethefoundation of much of Bahá’í belief, the Gems of Divine Myster-ies, which includes further doctrinal foundations, and the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys which are mystical treatises.
Main article: Bahá’í history
Bahá’í history follows a sequence of leaders, beginning with the Báb’s declaration in Shiraz, Iran on the evening of 22 May 1844, and ultimately resting on an adminis-trative order established by the central ﬁgures of the re-ligion. The Bahá’í community was mostly conﬁned to the Persian and Ottoman empires until after the death of Bahá’u’lláh in 1892, at which time he had followers in 13 countries of Asia and Africa. Under the leadership of hisson, `Abdu’l-Bahá, thereligiongainedafootinginEu-rope and America, and was consolidated in Iran, where it still suﬀers intense persecution. After the death of
`Abdu’l-Bahá in 1921, the leadership of the Bahá’í com-munity entered a new phase, evolving from a single indi-vidualto an administrativeorderwithboth electedbodies and appointed individuals.
5.1 The Báb
Main article: Báb
Ontheeveningof22May1844, Siyyid`Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz, Iran proclaimed that he was “the Báb” (الباب
“the Gate”), referring to his later claim to the station of Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam of Shi`a Islam. His followers were therefore known as Bábís. As the Báb’s teachings
spread, which the Islamic clergy saw as a threat, his fol-lowers came under increased persecution and torture.
The conﬂicts escalated in several places to military sieges bytheShah’sarmy. TheBábhimselfwasimprisonedand eventually executed in 1850.
Bahá’ís see the Báb as the forerunner of the Bahá’í Faith, because the Báb’s writings introduced the concept of “He whom God shall make manifest”, a Messianic ﬁg-ure whose coming, according to Bahá’ís, was announced in the scriptures of all of the world’s great religions, and whom Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, claimed to be in 1863. The Báb’s tomb, located in
Haifa, Israel, is an important place of pilgrimage for Bahá’ís. The remains of the Báb were brought secretly from Iran to the Holy Land and eventually interred in the tomb built for them in a spot speciﬁcally designated by Bahá’u’lláh. The main written works translated into
English of the Báb’s are collected in Selections from the
Writings of the Báb out of the estimated 135 works.
Main article: Bahá’u’lláh
Mírzá Husayn `Alí Núrí was one of the early followers of the Báb, and later took the title of Bahá’u’lláh. He wasarrestedandimprisonedforthisinvolvementin1852.
Bahá’u’lláh relates that in 1853, while incarcerated in the dungeonoftheSíyáh-ChálinTehran,hereceivedtheﬁrst intimations that he was the one anticipated by the Báb.
Shortly thereafter he was expelled from Tehran to Baghdad, in the Ottoman Empire; then to Constantino-ple (now Istanbul); and then to Adrianople (now Edirne). In 1863, at the time of his banishment from Baghdad to Constantinople, Bahá’u’lláh declared his claim to a divine mission to his family and followers. Tensions then grew between him and Subh-i-Azal, the appointed leader of the Bábís who did not recognize Bahá’u’lláh’s claim. Throughout the rest of his life Bahá’u’lláh gained the allegiance of most of the Bábís, who came to be known as Bahá’ís. Beginning in 1866, he began declar-ing his mission as a Messenger of God in letters to the world’s religious and secular rulers, including Pope Pius IX, Napoleon III, and Queen Victoria.
In 1868 Bahá’u’lláh was banished by Sultan Abdülâziz a ﬁnal time to the Ottoman penal colony of `Akká, in present-day Israel. Towards the end of his life, the strict and harsh conﬁnement was gradually relaxed, and he was allowed to live in a home near `Akká, while still oﬃcially a prisoner of that city. He died there in 1892. Bahá’ís regard his resting place at Bahjí as the Qiblih to which they turn in prayer each day.
Bahá’u’lláh wrote many written works taken as scripture in the religion of which only a fraction have been trans-latedintoEnglish. Therehavebeen15,000worksboth small and large noted – the most signiﬁcant of which are the Most Holy Book, the Book of Certitude, the Hidden Words, and the Seven Valleys. There is also a series of compilation volumes of smaller works the most signiﬁcant of which is the Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.
Main article: `Abdu’l-Bahá
`AbbásEﬀendiwasBahá’u’lláh’seldestson, knownbythe title of `Abdu’l-Bahá (Servant of Bahá). His father left a Will that appointed `Abdu’l-Bahá as the leader of the Bahá’í community, and designated him as the “Centre of the Covenant”, “Head of the Faith”, and the sole authori-tative interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings. `Abdu’l-
Baháhadsharedhisfather’slongexileandimprisonment, which continued until `Abdu’l-Bahá’s own release as a re-sult of the Young Turk Revolution in 1908. Following his release he led a life of travelling, speaking, teaching, andmaintainingcorrespondencewithcommunitiesofbe-lievers and individuals, expounding the principles of the Bahá’í Faith.
Itisestimatedthat`Abdu’l-Baháwroteover27,000works mostly in the form of letters of which only a fraction have been translated into English. Among the more well
known are The Secret of Divine Civilization, the Tablet to Auguste-Henri Forel, and Some Answered Questions. Additionally notes taken of a number of his talks were published in various volumes like Paris Talks during his journeys to the West.
5.4 Bahá’í administration
Main article: Bahá’í administration
Bahá’u’lláh’s Kitáb-i-Aqdas and The Will and Testament of`Abdu’l-BaháarefoundationaldocumentsoftheBahá’í administrative order. Bahá’u’lláh established the elected Universal House of Justice, and `Abdu’l-Bahá established the appointed hereditary Guardianship and clariﬁed the relationship between the two institutions. In his
Will, `Abdu’l-Baháappointedhiseldestgrandson, Shoghi Eﬀendi, as the ﬁrst Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, serving as head of the religion until his death, for 36 years.
Shoghi Eﬀendi throughout his lifetime translated Bahá’í texts; developed global plans for the expansion of the Bahá’í community; developed the Bahá’í World Centre; carried on a voluminous correspondence with commu-nities and individuals around the world; and built the administrative structure of the religion, preparing the community for the election of the Universal House of Justice. He died in 1957 under conditions that did not allow for a successor to be appointed.
At local, regional, and national levels, Bahá’ís elect mem-bers to nine-person Spiritual Assemblies, which run the aﬀairs of the religion. There are also appointed individ-
uals working at various levels, including locally and in-ternationally, which perform the function of propagating the teachings and protecting the community. The latter do not serve as clergy, which the Bahá’í Faith does not have. The Universal House of Justice, ﬁrst elected in 1963, remains the successor and supreme governing body of the Bahá’í Faith, and its 9 members are elected every ﬁve years by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies. Any male Bahá’í, 21 years or older, is el-igible to be elected to the Universal House of Justice; all other positions are open to male and female Bahá’ís. 5.5 International plans
In 1937, Shoghi Eﬀendi launched a seven-year plan for the Bahá’ís of North America, followed by another in 1946. In 1953, he launched the ﬁrst international plan, the Ten Year World Crusade. This plan included ex-tremely ambitious goals for the expansion of Bahá’í com-munities and institutions, the translation of Bahá’í texts into several new languages, and the sending of Bahá’í pioneers into previously unreached nations. He an-nounced in letters during the Ten Year Crusade that it would be followed by other plans under the direction of theUniversalHouseofJustice,whichwaselectedin1963 at the culmination of the Crusade. The House of Justice then launched a nine-year plan in 1964, and a series of subsequent multi-year plans of varying length and goals followed, guiding the direction of the international Bahá’í community.
Annually, on 21 April, the Universal House of Jus-tice sends a ‘Ridván’ message to the worldwide Bahá’í community, which generally gives an update on the progress made concerning the current plan, and provides further guidance for the year to come.[note 6] The Bahá’ís around the world are currently being encouraged to fo-cus on capacity building through children’s classes, youth groups, devotional gatherings, and a systematic study of the religion known as study circles. Further fo-cuses are involvement in social action and participation in the prevalent discourses of society. The years from
2001 until 2021 represent four successive ﬁve-year plans, culminating in the centennial anniversary of the passing of `Abdu’l-Bahá.
Main article: Bahá’í Faith by country
See also: Bahá’í statistics
A Bahá’í published document reported 4.74 million
Bahá’ís in 1986 growing at a rate of 4.4%. Bahá’í sources since 1991 usually estimate the worldwide Bahá’í population to be above 5 million. The World Chris-tian Encyclopedia estimated 7.1 million Bahá’ís in the world in 2000, representing 218 countries, and 7.3 million in 2010 with the same source. They further state: “The Baha’i Faith is the only religion to have grown faster in every United Nations region over the past 100 years than the general population; Baha’i was thus the fastest-growingreligionbetween1910and2010, growing at least twice as fast as the population of almost every UN region.” This source’s only systematic ﬂaw was to con-sistently have a higher estimate of Christians than other cross-national data sets.
From its origins in the Persian and Ottoman Empires, by the early 20th century there were a number of con-verts in South and South East Asia, Europe, and North America. During the 1950s and 1960s, vast travel teach-ing eﬀorts brought the religion to almost every coun-try and territory of the world. By the 1990s, Bahá’ís were developing programs for systematic consolidation on a large scale, and the early 21st century saw large in-ﬂuxes of new adherents around the world. The Bahá’í Faith is currently the largest religious minority in Iran, Panama, and Belize; the second largest interna-tional religion in Bolivia, Zambia, and Papua New Guinea; and the third largest international religion in Chad and Kenya.
According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004:
The majority of Bahá’ís live in Asia (3.6 million), Africa(1.8million), andLatinAmer-ica (900,000). According to some estimates, the largest Bahá’í community in the world is in India, with 2.2 million Bahá’ís, next is Iran, with 350,000, the US, with 150,000, and Brazil, with 60,000. Aside from these coun-tries, numbers vary greatly. Currently, no country has a Bahá’í majority.
The Bahá’í religion was listed in The Britannica Book of the Year (1992–present) as the second most widespread of the world’s independent religions in terms of the num-ber of countries represented. According to Britannica, the Bahá’í Faith (as of 2002) is established in 247 coun-tries and territories; represents over 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups; has scriptures translated into over 800 languages; and has an estimated seven million adherents worldwide. Additionally, Bahá’ís have self-organized in most of the nations of the world.
The Bahá’í religion was ranked by the Foreign Policy magazine as the world’s second fastest growing religion by percentage (1.7%) in 2007.
7 Social practices
Main article: Bahá’í laws
The laws of the Bahá’í Faith primarily come from the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, written by Bahá’u’lláh. The following are a few examples of basic laws and religious obser-vances.
• Prayer in the Bahá’í Faith consists of obligatory
prayer and devotional (general) prayer. Bahá’ís over the age of 15 must individually recite an obligatory prayer each day, using ﬁxed words and form. In ad-dition to the daily obligatory prayer, believers are
directed to daily oﬀer devotional prayer and to med-itateandstudysacredscripture. Thereisnosetform fordevotionsandmeditations, thoughthedevotional prayers written by the central ﬁgures of the Bahá’í Faith and collected in prayer books are held in high esteem. Readingaloudofprayersfromprayerbooks is a typical feature of Bahá’í gatherings.
• Backbiting and gossip are prohibited and de-
• Adult Bahá’ís in good health should observe a
nineteen-day sunrise-to-sunset fast each year from 2 March through 20 March.
• Bahá’ís are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take
drugs, unless prescribed by doctors.
• Sexual intercourse is only permitted between a hus-
band and wife, and thus premarital, extramarital, andhomosexualintercourseareforbidden. (Seealso Homosexuality and the Bahá’í Faith)
• Gambling is forbidden.
• Fanaticism is forbidden.
• Adherence to ritual is discouraged, with the notable
exception of the obligatory prayers.
• Abstaining from partisan politics is required.
While some of the laws from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are ap-plicable at the present time and may be enforced to a degree by the administrative institutions, Bahá’u’lláh has provided for the progressive application of other laws that are dependent upon the existence of a predominantly Bahá’í society. The laws, when not in direct conﬂict with the civil laws of the country of residence, are binding on every Bahá’í, and the observance of personal laws, such as prayer or fasting, is the sole responsibility of the individual.
Main article: Bahá’í marriage
The purpose of marriage in the Bahá’i faith is mainly to foster spiritual harmony, fellowship and unity between a manandawomanandtoprovideastableandlovingenvi-ronment for the rearing of children. The Bahá’í teach-ingsonmarriagecallitafortressforwell-beingandsalva-tion and place marriage and the family as the foundation of the structure of human society. Bahá’u’lláh highly praised marriage, discouraged divorce and homosexual-ity, and required chastity outside of marriage; Bahá’u’lláh taught that a husband and wife should strive to improve the spiritual life of each other. Interracial marriage is also highly praised throughout Bahá’í scripture.
Bahá’ís intending to marry are asked to obtain a thorough understanding of the other’s character before deciding to marry. Although parents should not choose partners for their children, once two individuals decide to marry, they must receive the consent of all living biological par-ents, whether they are Bahá’í or not. The Bahá’í marriage ceremony is simple; the only compulsory part of the wed-ding is the reading of the wedding vows prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh which both the groom and the bride read, in the presence of two witnesses. The vows are “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.”
Monasticism is forbidden, and Bahá’ís attempt to ground their spirituality in ordinary daily life. Performing useful work, for example, is not only required but considered a form of worship. Bahá’u’lláh prohibited a mendicant and ascetic lifestyle. The importance of self-exertion and service to humanity in one’s spiritual life is empha-sisedfurtherinBahá’u’lláh’swritings,wherehestatesthat work done in the spirit of service to humanity enjoys a rank equal to that of prayer and worship in the sight of God.
7.4 Places of worship
Main article: Bahá’í House of Worship
Most Bahá’í meetings occur in individuals’ homes, lo
cal Bahá’í centers, or rented facilities. Worldwide, there are currently seven Bahá’í Houses of Worship, with an eighth under construction in Chile, and a further seven planned as of April 2012. Bahá’í writings refer to an institution called a “Mashriqu’l-Adhkár” (Dawning-place of the Mention of God), which is to form the center of a complex of institutions including a hospital, univer-sity, and so on. The ﬁrst ever Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in
`Ishqábád, Turkmenistan, has been the most complete
House of Worship.
Main article: Bahá’í calendar
The Bahá’í calendar is based upon the calendar estab-lished by the Báb. The year consists of 19 months, each having19days, withfourorﬁveintercalarydays, tomake a full solar year. The Bahá’í New Year corresponds to the traditional Persian New Year, called Naw Rúz, and occurs on the vernal equinox, 21 March, at the end of the month of fasting. Bahá’í communities gather at the beginning of each month at a meeting called a Feast for worship, consultation and socializing.
Each of the 19 months is given a name which is an at-tribute of God; some examples include Bahá’ (Splen-dour), ‘Ilm (Knowledge), and Jamál (Beauty). The
Bahá’í week is familiar in that it consists of seven days, with each day of the week also named after an attribute of God. Bahá’ís observe 11 Holy Days throughout the year, with work suspended on 9 of these. These days commemorate important anniversaries in the history of the religion.
The calligraphy of the Greatest Name
Main article: Bahá’í symbols
The symbols of the religion are derived from the Arabic word Bahá’ (بهاء“splendor” or “glory”), with a numerical
value of 9, which is why the most common symbol is the nine-pointed star. The ringstone symbol and callig-raphy of the Greatest Name are also often encountered. Theformerconsistsoftwoﬁve-pointedstarsinterspersed with a stylized Bahá’ whose shape is meant to recall the three onenesses, while the latter is a calligraphic ren-dering of the phrase Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá (يا بهاء الأبهى “O
Glory of the Most Glorious!”).
The ﬁve-pointed star is the symbol of the Bahá’í Faith. In the Bahá’í Faith, the star is known as the Haykal (Arabic: “temple” ), and it was initiated and
established by the Báb. The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh wrote various works in the form of a pentagram.
7.7 Socio-economic development
Main article: Socio-economic development (Bahá’í)
Since its inception the Bahá’í Faith has had involve
mentinsocio-economicdevelopmentbeginningbygiving greater freedom to women, promulgating the promo-tion of female education as a priority concern, and that involvement was given practical expression by creat-ing schools, agricultural coops, and clinics.
The religion entered a new phase of activity when a mes-sage of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released. Bahá’ís were urged to seek out ways, compatiblewiththeBahá’íteachings, inwhichtheycould becomeinvolvedinthesocialandeconomicdevelopment of the communities in which they lived. Worldwide in 1979 there were 129 oﬃcially recognized Bahá’í socio-economic development projects. By 1987, the number of oﬃcially recognized development projects had increased to 1482.
7.8 United Nations
Bahá’u’lláh wrote of the need for world government in this age of humanity’s collective life. Because of this emphasis the international Bahá’í community has cho-sen to support eﬀorts of improving international rela-tionsthroughorganizationssuchastheLeagueofNations and the United Nations, with some reservations about the present structure and constitution of the UN.
The Bahá’í International Community is an agency un-der the direction of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, and has consultative status with the following
• United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
• United Nations Development Fund for Women
• United Nations Economic and Social Council
• United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
• World Health Organization (WHO)
The Bahá’í International Community has oﬃces at the United Nations in New York and Geneva and repre-sentations to United Nations regional commissions and other oﬃces in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Nairobi, Rome, Santiago, and Vienna. In recent years an Oﬃce of the Environment and an Oﬃce for the Advancement of WomenwereestablishedaspartofitsUnitedNationsOf-ﬁce. The Bahá’í Faith has also undertaken joint develop-ment programs with various other United Nations agen-cies. In the 2000 Millennium Forum of the United Na-tions a Bahá’í was invited as the only non-governmental speaker during the summit.
Main article: Persecution of Bahá’ís
Bahá’ís continue to be persecuted in Islamic coun
tries, as Islamic leaders do not recognize the Bahá’í Faith as an independent religion, but rather as apostasy from Islam. The most severe persecutions have oc-curred in Iran, where over 200 Bahá’ís were executed be-tween 1978 and 1998, and in Egypt. The rights of
Bahá’ís have been restricted to greater or lesser extents in numerous other countries, including Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, and several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
ThemarginalizationoftheIranianBahá’ísbycurrentgov-ernments is rooted in historical eﬀorts by Muslim clergy topersecutethereligiousminority. WhentheBábstarted attracting a large following, the clergy hoped to stop the movement from spreading by stating that its followers were enemies of God. These clerical directives led to mobattacksandpublicexecutions. Startinginthetwen-tieth century, in addition to repression that impacted in-dividual Bahá’ís, centrally directed campaigns that tar-geted the entire Bahá’í community and its institutions were initiated. In one case in Yazd in 1903 more than 100 Bahá’ís were killed. Bahá’í schools, such as the
Tarbiyat boys’ and girls’ schools in Tehran, were closed in the 1930s and 40s, Bahá’í marriages were not recog-nized and Bahá’í texts were censored.
During the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to divert attention from economic diﬃculties in Iran and from a growing nationalist movement, a campaign of persecu-tion against the Bahá’ís was instituted.[note 7] An approved and coordinated anti-Bahá’í campaign (to incite public passion against the Bahá’ís) started in 1955 and it in-cluded the spreading of anti-Bahá’í propaganda on na-tional radio stations and in oﬃcial newspapers. In the late 1970s the Shah’s regime consistently lost legitimacy due to criticism that it was pro-Western. As the anti-Shah movement gained ground and support, revolution-ary propaganda was spread which alleged that some of the Shah’s advisors were Bahá’ís. Bahá’ís were por-trayed as economic threats, and as supporters of Israel and the West, and societal hostility against the Bahá’ís increased.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 Iranian Bahá’ís have regularly had their homes ransacked or have been banned from attending university or from holding gov-ernment jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentencesfortheirreligiousbeliefs, mostrecentlyforpar-ticipatinginstudycircles. Bahá’ícemeterieshavebeen desecrated and property has been seized and occasion-ally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá’u’lláh’s father. The House of the Báb in Shiraz, one of three sites to which Bahá’ís perform pilgrimage, has been destroyed twice.
According to a US panel, attacks on Bahá’ís in Iran increased under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. The United Nations Commis-sion on Human Rights revealed an October 2005 conﬁdential letter from Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran ordering its members to identify Bahá’ís and to monitor their activities. Due to these actions, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated on 20 March 2006, that she “also expresses concern that the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahá’í faith, in violation of
international standards. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that this latest development indicates that the situation with regard to religious minorities in Iran is, in fact, deteriorating.
On 14 May 2008, members of an informal body known as the “Friends” that oversaw the needs of the Bahá’í community in Iran were arrested and taken to Evin prison. The Friends court case has been post-poned several times, but was ﬁnally underway on 12 Jan-uary 2010. Other observers were not allowed in the court. Even the defence lawyers, who for two years have had minimal access to the defendants, had diﬃculty en-tering the courtroom. The chairman of the U.S. Com-mission on International Religious Freedom said that it seemsthatthegovernmenthasalreadypredeterminedthe outcome of the case and is violating international human rights law. Further sessions were held on 7 Febru-ary 2010, 12 April 2010 and 12 June 2010.
On 11 August 2010 it became known that the court sen-tence was 20 years imprisonment for each of the seven prisoners which was later reduced to ten years.
After the sentence, they were transferred to Gohardasht prison. In March 2011 the sentences were reinstated to the original 20 years. On 3 January 2010, Iranian authorities detained ten more members of the Baha’i mi-nority, reportedly including Leva Khanjani, granddaugh-ter of Jamaloddin Khanjani, one of seven Baha’i leaders jailed since 2008 and in February, they arrested his son, Niki Khanjani.
The Iranian government claims that the Bahá’í Faith is not a religion, but is instead a political organization, and hence refuses to recognize it as a minority religion.
However, the government has never produced convinc-ing evidence supporting its characterization of the Bahá’í community. Also, the government’s statements that
Bahá’ís who recanted their religion would have their rights restored, attest to the fact that Bahá’ís are perse-cuted solely for their religious aﬃliation. The Iranian government also accuses the Bahá’í Faith of being associ-ated with Zionism because the Bahá’í World Centre is lo-cated in Haifa, Israel.[note 8] These accusations against the Bahá’ís have no basis in historical fact,  and the accusations are used by the Iranian government to use the Bahá’ís as “scapegoats”. In fact it was the Iranian leaderNaseral-DinShahQajarwhobanishedBahá’u’lláh from Persia to the Ottoman Empire and Bahá’u’lláh was later exiled by the Ottoman Sultan, at the behest of the Persian Shah, to territories further away from Iran and ﬁnally to Acre in Syria, which only a century later was incorporated into the state of Israel.
Bahá’í institutions and community activities have been il-legal under Egyptian law since 1960. All Bahá’í com-munity properties, including Bahá’í centers, libraries, and cemeteries, have been conﬁscated by the govern-
ment and fatwas have been issued charging Bahá’ís with apostasy.
The Egyptian identiﬁcation card controversy began in the 1990s when the government modernized the electronic processing of identity documents, which introduced a de facto requirement that documents must list the per-son’s religion as Muslim, Christian, or Jewish (the only three religions oﬃcially recognized by the government). Consequently, Bahá’ís were unable to obtain government identiﬁcation documents (such as national identiﬁcation cards, birth certiﬁcates, death certiﬁcates, marriage or divorce certiﬁcates, or passports) necessary to exercise their rights in their country unless they lied about their religion, which conﬂicts with Bahá’í religious principle. Without documents, they could not be employed, edu-cated,treatedinhospitals,traveloutsideofthecountry,or vote, among other hardships. Following a protracted legal process culminating in a court ruling favorable to the Bahá’ís, the interior minister of Egypt released a de-cree on 14 April 2009, amending the law to allow Egyp-tians who are not Muslim, Christian, or Jewish to obtain identiﬁcation documents that list dash in place of one of the three recognized religions. The ﬁrst identiﬁcation cards were issued to two Bahá’ís under the new decree on 8 August 2009.