The Bahai religion is among the world's youngest major religions. It exists in 235 countries and has six million followers in the world. The religion was founded in 19th century Iran. It grew out of Islam, similar to how Christianity came out of Judaism. The faith welcomes all individuals who accept Bahá'u'lláh, his covenant regarding his son and successor Abdu'l-Bahá, and the governing rules and institutions of Bahai. Converts do not need to renounce their previous religions, since Bahais believe that all religions are different approaches to worshipping God, and that their faith is the most recent and current approach.

Bahai History

The history of the Bahai faith goes back to 1844, when a young Iranian man who called himself the Báb said that God will soon send a messenger who is to be the latest prophet, or Manifestation of God, from the line of Moses, Muhammad and Jesus. The prophet Bahá'u'lláh (meaning Glory of God in Arabic) arrived and Bahai faith was founded in 1863. Bahá'u'lláh was born into a rich family in 1817 as Mirza Husayn Ali. His followers were descendants of the Bábis, the people who believed in the Báb's message. Bahá'u'lláh announced that he was not the last of God's prophets and that God would send prophets throughout history. This way, God would reveal more and more about himself to mankind.

Bahai Beliefs

The concept of progressive revelation is an important core belief of the Bahai faith. According to the Bahai religion, all the different religions are valid and worship a single God in different ways. Abraham, the Buddha, Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad are all prophets who have been involved in the revelation of God, but the latest prophet is Bahá'u'lláh. The concepts of unity and community are very important for followers of Bahai, who believe that people should come together and collectively work to help humanity. According to the religion, when someone dies, the soul moves and exists in another realm. Baháí holy scriptures consist of the writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb. Major Bahai holidays include the Feast of the Birth of the Báb which takes place on October 20 every year, Naw-Rúz (New Day) festival that marks the Bahai new year and is preceded by the Nineteen Day Fast (19 days of fasting in preparation of the new year).

Bahai Customs

According to the Bahai religion, followers should fast, pray, participate in social and economic events and projects, and love God. Bahai community projects are intended to help those in need and improve their moral belief systems. This is done through activities and events that involve people. Community involvement is key in Bahai. For Bahais fasting has a spiritual meaning, associated with self-restraint, discipline, and cleansing. Praying is central to the religion. Certain prayers are required throughout the day. The faith encourages its followers to also meditate and learn about God. The faith does not have any clergy or sacraments. It only has three rituals: daily prayers, prayer for the dead, and marriage. Although followers gather for worship, the service does not include any congregational prayers; one person simply recites the prayers.

By Ryan Brown