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About the Bahá'í Faith

Teachings. Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, taught that there is one God Who progressively reveals His will to humanity. Each of the great religions brought by the Messengers of God -- Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster -- represents a successive stage in the spiritual development of civilization. Bahá'u'lláh, the most recent Messenger in this line, has brought teachings that address the moral and spiritual challenges of the modern world. At the heart of Bahá'í belief is the conviction that humanity is a single people with a common destiny. In the words of Bahá'u'lláh, "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."

Other core teachings include the independent investigation of truth, the elimination of prejudice, the equality of the sexes, the harmony of science and religion, the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth, and a world commonwealth of nations. The Bahá'í writings uphold a very high moral standard, stressing the importance of honesty, trustworthiness, chastity, generosity, and service to others.

For Bahá'ís, the purpose of life is to know and love God, and to progress spiritually. As in most other religions, prayer and meditation are primary tools for spiritual development. However, acts of service to humanity are also essential to spiritual growth, and another purpose of life is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Bahá'í teachings elevate work performed in a spirit of service to the rank of worship.

Baha'i templeThe complementary nature of prayer and action are reflected in the very structure of the Bahá'í Houses of Worship, consisting of centers for prayer and mediation surrounded by institutions that carry out charitable and humanitarian functions. (The House of Worship near New Delhi is shown on the left.)

History. The Bahá'í Faith arose in the mid-19th century in Iran. A young merchant in Shiraz, titled the Bab (the "gate") claimed to be the return of the 12th Imam prophesied in Shi'ah Muslim traditions. The Bab's mission was twofold: He first announced to the people of His native land His own station as an independent Messenger and He also prepared the way for the coming of another Manifestation (messenger) of God, a Prophet who would announce His station soon after The Bab. The next six years marked a dramatic increase in both the number of persons who became followers of the Bab and in the energy spent by the Shi'ah clergy of Iran to stamp out this new religion. Eventually 20,000 Babis would be put to death for their beliefs. The Bab Himself was imprisoned and was executed in July of 1850. Many Babis were also imprisoned. Among them was Mirza Husayn-Ali, entitled Bahá'u'lláh (The Glory of God) by The Bab. Imprisoned for several months in 1853 in Tehran and then exiled to Iraq, in the city of Baghdad in 1863 Bahá'u'lláh announced to the world His station as the One for Whom the Bab had prepared the way. The majority of the Babis accepted Bahá'u'lláh's claim and became known as Bahá'ís (the followers of Bahá).

The Bahá'í Faith has spread all over the world and has significant communities in more countries than any other major religion except Christianity.

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