What Bahá’ís Believe

Bahá’ís hold the conviction that we all belong to one human family, a principle which resonates with the people of South Africa. It is around this principle, the oneness of humanity, that all Bahá’í teachings revolve. Bahá’u’lláh has compared the world of humanity to the human body. The human body is made up of billions of cells of diverse form and function which work together to maintain a healthy system. Likewise humanity is an organic whole made up of individuals, families, communities and institutions. Similar to the different parts of the body, the interaction between the different components of humanity must be characterised by harmony, cooperation and reciprocity to ensure the material and spiritual prosperity of all and allow for the advancement of society.

Bahá’ís believe that humanity as a collective is at the threshold of maturity – a stage which will witness the unification of the human race. Today, humanity is in the midst of an unprecedented transition similar to an individual passing through the unsettled yet promising period of adolescence. Much of the turmoil that we see in society are the fits and starts of a humanity struggling to come of age. The hallmark of the stage of maturity is the growing realisation of the principle of the oneness of humanity, a principle that will come to infuse all facets of human life.

“Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch… So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth”

The false ideas that consider one group of people as superior to others that have been around for thousands of years are a major contributor to much of the conflict, confusion and despair we see in the world today. The dire consequences of these erroneous ideas have been acutely felt in South Africa. The recognition by individuals, communities and the institutions of society, that there is only one human race, and that we are a single people bound together in one common destiny is the remedy to racism, xenophobia and intolerance in all its forms. The human soul has no race, ethnicity, gender or class and as such all forms of prejudice like those on the basis of race, gender or religion, should be eliminated.

“O Children of Men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you from one substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest”

The equality of women and men is a fact of reality, a spiritual truth that has been suppressed throughout most of history. It is not just a condition to be achieved for the common good.

Although this principle has been widely acknowledged, gender prejudice remains the most widespread injustice in the world today. It promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the home, to the workplace, to economic and political life and ultimately to relations amongst states. Achieving the full equality of the sexes is one of the most important prerequisites for building a more just society and the establishment of lasting peace in the world.

“The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be”— Ábdu’l-Bahá

The essential identity of every human being is a soul- umphefumulo, mowa. The life of a human being begins when the soul associates itself with the embryo at the time of conception. Bahá’u’lláh says, “Know verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel”. The relationship between the soul and the body can be likened to a light and a mirror which reflects it. The light which appears in the mirror is not inside of it but comes from an external source. This special relationship only lasts the span of a mortal life, when this ends the body returns to the world of dust, while the soul continues on to the spiritual worlds of God.

The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of a child while still in the womb of its mother. In the womb of the mother, a person develops capacities and endowments necessary for existence in this earthly life. Therefore the purpose of our lives in this world is to prepare ourselves for the life beyond. We need to develop spiritual qualities and characteristics that we need for the next stage in our journey. On this journey, we need to be mindful of the need for patience with ourselves and perseverance; accepting that mistakes and challenges are inevitable without losing sight of the spiritual potential within each of us.

“Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty”

The act of praying exists in all the religions of the world. The same way our bodies need nourishment to grow, we need prayer to develop our souls. Prayer is like food for the soul! `Abdu’l-Bahá describes prayer as “conversation with God”. When we pray we are having a loving conversation with our Creator. Prayer in its purest state serves to bring us closer to God and helps us attain His Presence. Communion with God also provides comfort and strength and offers us with a channel to express our love for God. Through this act, the special bond that exists between God and humanity is reinforced.

In localities across the country, Bahá’ís gather in their homes with their friends and families to pray and read the Holy Scriptures together. This is often accompanied by uplifting music and songs. These meetings serve to infuse into neighbourhoods a devotional character promoting unity and harmony in the community.

“In the highest prayer, men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear Him or Hell, or hope for bounty or heaven… When a man falls in love with a human being, it is impossible for him to keep from mentioning the name of his beloved. How much more difficult is it to keep from mentioning the Name of God when has come to love Him… The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God.”— Ábdu’l-Bahá

The following quotations from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh help us to reflect on the spiritual qualities and characteristics we strive to develop in this world

"O Son of Spirit! My first Counsel is this: possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting”

"Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation. Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone... In truth, knowledge is a veritable treasure for man, and a source of glory, of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer and gladness unto him. Happy the man that cleaveth unto it, and woe betide the heedless”

"Humility exalteth man to the heaven of glory and power, whilst pride abaseth him to the depths of wretchedness and degradation"

- Bahá'u'lláh

“There is nothing sweeter in the world of existence than prayer. Man must live in a state of prayer. The most blessed condition is the condition of prayer and supplication

“Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch… So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth

“Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God

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