Questions & Answers
What is the Bahá'í Faith?
Founded in the mid-1800s, the Bahá'í Faith is among the fastest-growing of the world's religions. With more than five million followers throughout the world, it is the second-most widespread faith, surpassing every religion but Christianity in its geographic reach. Bahá'ís live in more than 100,000 localities around the world, which reflects their dedication to the ideal of world citizenship.
What do Bahá'ís believe?
Bahá'ís believe there is one God, that all humanity is one family and that there is a fundamental unity underlying religion. They recognize that the coming of Bahá'u'lláh signifies that this is the age in which world peace will be established. As anticipated in the sacred scriptures of the past, humanity will achieve its spiritual and social maturity and live as one family in a just, global society.
Who is Bahá'u'lláh?
Bahá'u'lláh is recognized by millions throughout the world as the Messenger of God for this age. The Bahá'í Faith is founded on His teachings. Born in 1817 to a prominent family in Iran, Bahá'u'lláh showed intellectual precocity from an early age although He wasn't formally schooled. He also demonstrated extreme devotion to helping the poor. Bahá'u'lláh’s given name was Mírza Husayn Ali, but He identified Himself as Bahá'u'lláh, which means "Glory of God," a title bestowed by His Forerunner, the Báb. Because of His teachings, Bahá'u'lláh was exiled for 40 years and died in the Holy Land in 1892.
Who is the Báb?
Bahá'ís believe that the Báb (1819-1850) was an independent Messenger of God, whose mission was to inaugurate a new cycle in humanity's spiritual development. His writings prepared the way for the mission of Bahá'u'lláh. The Báb was executed in 1850 at the insistence of Islamic clergy, who felt threatened by the principles He taught.
What are some basic teachings of the Bahá'í Faith?
While retaining the basic spiritual teachings of all the Messengers of God, the Bahá'í Faith brings new social principles relevant to the needs of a global society: the oneness of humanity, equality of men and women, the abolition of prejudice, the harmony of science and religion and the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth.
Are there sects or branches of the Bahá'í Faith?
No. The Bahá'í Faith is protected from division by a Covenant established by Bahá'u'lláh. It was instituted to preserve the unity of His followers and prevent schism after His passing. The Covenant calls on Bahá'ís to turn for guidance to Bahá'u'lláh’s eldest son, Abdu’l-Bahá, the appointed interpreter of His teachings; to Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Faith until his passing in 1957; and to the Universal House of Justice, the elected international council. Those who do not, or cease to, observe these provisions of the Covenant cannot legitimately claim to be Bahá'ís. Despite efforts by individuals to divert authority to themselves, the Bahá'í community is a single, united body, free of schisms or factions. The Bahá'í Faith is thus the first religion in history that has survived its critical first century with its unity firmly established. "Were it not for the protecting power of the Covenant to guard the impregnable fort of the Cause of God," said Abdu'l-Bahá, "there would arise among the Bahá'ís, in one day, a thousand different sects as was the case in former ages." But in this Revelation, Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant is the magnet that draws the hearts of its followers together.
Where are the headquarters of the Bahá'í Faith?
The Bahá'í World Center is located in the Haifa/Akká area in northern Israel. Set among lush, extensive gardens, the center includes the Shrines of Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, and Abdu'l-Bahá, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the International Teaching Center, the Center for the Study of the Texts and the International Bahá'í Archives.
Who is the head of the Bahá'í Faith?
Bahá'u'lláh called for the creation of a system of democratically elected councils at the local, national and international levels. The head of the Faith is the Universal House of Justice, the nine-person international council elected by secret ballot by the members of national councils.
Do the Bahá'ís have a holy book?
The Most Holy Book of the Bahá'í Faith is the Kitáb-I-Aqdas, the book of laws written by Bahá'u'lláh. It is part of a large body of scriptures authored by Him. Comprising an estimated 100 volumes, these wide-ranging writings include laws and principles for personal conduct and the governance of society, as well as mystical writings on the progress of the soul and its journey toward God. The many writings of the Báb and those of Abdu'l-Bahá also are a sacred source of reference for Bahá'ís. Moreover, Bahá'ís recognize the Bible, the Qur'an and the holy texts of the world's other revealed religions.
What do Bahá'ís believe about God?
God is the ultimate Reality, Creator of the universe, Whose nature is unknowable and inaccessible to humankind. Such designations as God, Allah, Yahweh and Brahma all refer to the One Divine Being. We learn about God through His Messengers, Who teach and guide humanity.
What is the relationship of the Bahá'í Faith to Islam?
Bahá'u'lláh was born into a Muslim family and society. Thus, in much the same way that Christianity grew out of Judaism, or Buddhism out of Hinduism, the Bahá'í Faith emerged from an Islamic context. Like them, however, the Bahá'í Faith is an independent religion with its own laws, teachings and institutions.
What holidays do Bahá'ís observe?
Bahá'ís observe 11 holy days each year and abstain from work on nine of those days. Bahá'í holy days include days associated with the lives of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb; Naw-Ruz, the Bahá'í new year, on March 21; and Ridván, a 12-day festival in spring commemorating Bahá'u'lláh's declaration of His mission. Bahá'ís observe holy days by gathering for prayer, reflection and fellowship.
Do Bahá'ís believe in Heaven and Hell?
Heaven and Hell for Bahá'ís are not physical places, but rather spiritual realities -- allegories for nearness and remoteness from God. When we die, the condition of our souls determines our experience in the afterlife.
Are there Bahá'í activities in which I can participate?
The public is invited to participate in Bahá'ís gatherings for worship and observance of holy days; study circles that explore Bahá'u'lláh's teachings; and social and educational activities for children, youth and adults. Informal gatherings, sometimes referred to as "firesides," provide an open setting for asking questions and learning more about the faith.
How do Bahá'ís relate to other religions?
Bahá'u'lláh called upon Bahá'ís to associate with the followers of all religions in a spirit of love and friendship. Bahá'ís see no intrinsic conflict with other religious communities because they believe that all the revealed faiths originate from the same source, God, and are essentially one.
What is the role of the individual in the Bahá'í Faith?
As the faith has no clergy, individuals are responsible for building a united, functioning Bahá'í community and acquainting others with the Faith. The role of the individual is important in the Bahá'í Faith because the success of the Bahá'í community depends ultimately on the individual's response to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. In addition to individual initiative, Bahá'ís work at the community and institutional levels. Bahá'ís are expected to pray and meditate daily, be wholly engaged with the world at large and place service to humanity as their highest goal.
What is the Bahá'í view of marriage and family?
A stable, loving family is considered the basic unit of social life on which the progress of society depends. Monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of family life. Bahá'u'lláh described matrimony as "a fortress for well-being and salvation" and identified the rearing of children as the fundamental, though not the only, purpose of marriage.
What kinds of activities are Bahá'ís involved in for the benefit of others?
Bahá'ís are dedicated to personal and social transformation, which Bahá'u'lláh said is the true purpose of religion. Specifically, as individuals and as a community, Bahá'ís are dedicated to improving society through social and economic development projects in education, agriculture and healthcare, among other fields. The ultimate goal is to unite humanity by eliminating prejudice, promulgating the equality of the sexes, adopting a universal standard of human rights, ensuring education for all, recognizing the harmony between religion and science, and establishing a world government. Bahá'ís work with other organizations, such as the United Nations, to achieve these goals.
How do Bahá'ís relate to politics?
Bahá'ís take their civic responsibilities seriously and uphold the authority of established governments through loyalty and obedience to the laws of their country. They are encouraged to vote in government elections, but must abstain from partisanship or joining political parties or factions. Bahá'ís may serve their government in administrative posts, but do not accept appointments to political or partisan positions. Bahá'ís may run as an unaffiliated independent in elections for posts where no political party affiliation is required.
What is the Bahá'í position on the status of women?
The Bahá'í writings clearly indicate that from a spiritual point of view there is no difference between women and men and no basis-moral, biological or social-for discrimination on grounds of gender.
What is the Bahá'í attitude toward science?
Bahá'ís view science and religion as complementary systems of knowledge, which throughout history have been the most powerful instruments for the investigation of reality and the advancement of civilization. Bahá'ís see the harmonious interaction of science and religion, each operating within its proper sphere, as one of the prerequisites for the establishment of a peaceful and just society.
How do Bahá'ís view the environmental crisis?
Bahá'ís see the environmental crisis as one of a number of issues requiring a profound change in human behavior. They believe that humanity is in a turbulent period of transition toward a unified global society. Humanity will be able to live in harmony with the environment when its spiritual and material potentials are treated with respect.
Do Bahá'ís observe dietary restrictions?
Although there are no dietary restrictions in the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'ís are prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages and using narcotic and hallucinogenic drugs.
Are Bahá'ís required to tithe a portion of their income?
As an element of their life of service, Bahá'ís contribute regularly, in accordance with their means, to the funds that support the work of the faith. Contributing is considered a spiritual duty and a matter of individual conscience, and is performed without coercion or overview by the Bahá'í community.
Where does money come from for Bahá'í activities and projects?
All activities of the Bahá'í community are supported by the voluntary contributions of individual believers. Bahá'ís do not seek or accept funds from others for activities that relate to the internal development of the Bahá'í community. Funds from private, national or international agencies are sometimes received for social and humanitarian initiatives, such as schools and agricultural projects that are designed to serve the community at large.