A Brief Introduction to the Baha'i Faith
The Baha'i Faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions beginning May 23, 1844. Its founder, Baha'u'llah (1817-1892), is regarded by Baha'is as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ, Muhammad, and the Bab. Baha'u'llah translates to the 'Glory of God' and is pronounced ba-ha-oh-lah. The name Baha'i, pronounced bah-hi, derives from Baha'u'llah's name and means 'follower of the Glory'
The central theme of Baha'u'llah's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Baha'u'llah said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the established fact of the oneness of humanity and to assist the processes of global unification.
One of the purposes of the Baha'i Faith is to help make this possible. A worldwide community of more than five million Baha'is, representative of most of the nations, races and cultures on earth, is working to give Baha'u'llah's teachings practical effect. This practical effect is referred to as 'community building'. Their experience will be a source of encouragement to all who share their vision of humanity as one global family and the earth as one homeland.
Baha'u'llah taught that there is one God Whose successive revelations of His Will to humanity have been the chief civilizing force in history. The agents of this process have been the Divine Messengers whom people have seen chiefly as the founders of separate religious systems but whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity.
Humanity is now coming of age. It is this that makes possible the unification of the human family and the building of a peaceful, global society. Among the principles which the Baha'i Faith promotes as vital to the achievement of this goal are:
- the abandonment of all forms of prejudice
- the assurance to women of full equality of opportunity and rights with men
- the recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth
- the elimination of war
- the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth
- the realization of universal education
- the responsibility of each person to independently search for truth
- the establishment of a global commonwealth of nations
- the recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge
Customs and Practices
Baha'i community life is organized by a new calendar whose distinctive feature is 19 months each made up of 19 days. Each Baha'i month begins with the Nineteen Day Feast. There are also Holy Days and other special events such as the Baha'i Fast. The Nineteen Day Feast is a time for Baha'is to meet, pray, discuss the progress of collective initiatives and other community business, and socialize. Baha'is are organized administratively by an elected body of nine individuals called the Local Spiritual Assembly. The Assembly serves as the administrative head for the local community and a corresponding Regional and National Spiritual Assembly organize the affairs of these greater communities. Lastly, the Universal House of Justice overseas and directs the affairs of the worldwide Baha'i community and is its highest authority. The Universal House of Justice is seated in Haifa, Israel on the side of Mount Carmel.
Places of Worship
The Baha'is have several Houses of Worship around the world. The closest House of Worship to the Howard County Baha'i community is in Wilmette, Illinois. The Baha'is of Howard County currently use public and private gathering spaces in order to carry out Nineteen Day Feasts, Holy Days, devotionals, and other meetings.