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The Bahá'í Faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions. Its founder, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá'ís 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 and Muhammad.

The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá'u'lláh 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 fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.

One of the purposes of the Bahá'í Faith is to help make this possible. A worldwide community of some five million Bahá'ís, representative of most of the nations, races and cultures on earth, is working to give Bahá'u'lláh's teachings practical effect. 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.

The Founder of the Bahá'í Faith was Bahá'u'lláh. His name means “the Glory of God.” We recognise Bahá'u'lláh as the Messenger of God for this age and the Promised One of all ages and religions. The Bahá'í Faith is founded on His teachings. Born in Tehran in 1817, Bahá'u'lláh spent most of His life unjustly exiled and imprisoned. His message of peace, unity and justice, and His prescription for the personal and social requirements of the future global society, form the basis of the sacred texts of the Faith. He was exiled to the Holy Land in 1868 and spent the rest of His life there. He passed away in 1892 in Acre, near Haifa in what is now Israel.

The Báb
Bahá'u'lláh’s mission was heralded by the Báb (1819-1850), Whose name means “The Gate.” The Báb was an independent Messenger of God. His message urged religious and social reform and aroused great interest among tens of thousands of followers throughout Persia. The Báb was unjustly imprisoned for His teachings. In 1850 He was executed by firing squad.

'Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921) was Bahá'u'lláh’s eldest son, His appointed successor, and the authorised interpreter of His teachings. He led the Bahá'í Faith after His Father’s passing. The Faith spread to Europe and North America during the time of 'Abdu’l-Bahá. He travelled widely there, explaining the teachings of the Faith to big audiences in universities, churches, synagogues and the meeting places of many progressive associations.

Shoghi Effendi
In His will and testament, 'Abdu’l-Bahá appointed His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani (1897-1957), to succeed him as the head or "Guardian" of the Bahá'í Faith. Shoghi Effendi oversaw a major expansion of the Bahá'í Faith. From 35 countries in 1921, the Faith had spread to more than 200 countries, territories and colonies at the time of his passing in 1957.

Universal House of Justice
After the death of Shoghi Effendi, a small group of specially appointed individuals guided the development of the international Bahá'í community until the election of the first Universal House of Justice in 1963. The Universal House of Justice is the elected, supreme governing council of the Bahá'í Faith and has its permanent Seat at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. As head of the Bahá'í Faith, the Universal House of Justice directs the spiritual and administrative affairs of the Bahá'ís of the world.

Bahá'u'lláh taught that there is one God, the same Creator recognised by the great religions of the world. He also taught that all the world’s major religions are successive stages in the ongoing revelation of the one Faith.

This is often referred to as “progressive revelation”.

We believe all the great religions come from the same Source, God, and have the same essential purpose - to guide and educate the human race. Their spiritual core is one, but they differ in their secondary aspects such as social teachings, which change in relation to humanity’s evolving requirements. The principle of the oneness of humanity is the pivot around which all the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolve. For this reason Bahá'ís follow laws of personal morality and behaviour, as well as social laws and principles, all of which we see as promoting and establishing the oneness of humanity. We believe the purpose of life is to know and worship God, to acquire virtues and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilisation. Once we die our soul progresses to the afterlife where it continues to develop spiritually.

Some social principles
Bahá'u'lláh taught that humanity - after a long and turbulent adolescence - is now reaching a stage of maturity where unity can finally be established in a global and just society. The Bahá'í Faith brings social principles appropriate to the needs of a global society. Many of these principles, while considered radical in the time of Bahá'u'lláh, are now increasingly accepted by many people.

The Bahá'í teachings include laws for the spiritual and moral life of the individual and for the governance and development of society. Rather than seeing these laws as restrictive, we view them as liberating. We believe they improve our lives and free us from many of the debilitating afflictions of our times. Although we see the Bahá'í laws are advantageous to anybody who obeys them, we do not expect people who are not Bahá'ís to follow them, nor do we criticise them for not doing so. The laws for our personal lives include daily prayer, observance of an annual period of fasting, obedience to the law and abstention from partisan politics. Other moral and ethical principles include prohibitions against backbiting, extramarital sex, gambling, and the non-medical use of alcohol or other drugs.

Obedience to the government
We take our civic responsibilities seriously through loyalty and obedience to the laws of our country. Although Bahá'ís participate as voters in general elections, we abstain from partisanship. We do not join political parties or factions, run for elected political office or accept political appointments. This is due to our belief in the vital need for unity in society. This view does not stop us from respecting the work and dedication of the elected representatives. Bahá'ís may, and often do, serve the Government in administrative posts. Because we see unity as a necessary foundation for peace, we refrain from participating in aggressive public debates or socially disruptive activities.We believe that our best contribution to society can be made by working with others to help build a world that is just, peaceful and united.

Bahá'u'lláh's Writings
Our sacred writings are available to everybody. We view these texts as divinely inspired. The original manuscripts of Bahá'u'lláh’s writings - some written in His own hand and others meticulously transcribed by His personal secretaries - are today kept at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Some are mystical works in lofty and beautiful prose, and others are direct statements on morality and ethics. There are scriptures on spiritual and social teachings, prayers, letters and poetic works. Bahá'u'lláh’s main works are now available in most of the world's major languages. Selections have been translated into more than 800 tongues and translations are ongoing.

Other sacred writings
In addition to the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'ís also recognize as divine scripture the writings of His Herald, the Báb. Some of these writings have been translated and published in Selections from the Writings of the Báb. Authoritative interpretations of the sacred texts by Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb can be found in the very accessible works of Bahá'u'lláh’s appointed successor, 'Abdu’l-Bahá.

Authoritative interpretations also can be found in the works of 'Abdul-Bahá’s successor, Shoghi Effendi.

For more information, please contact us or visit: http://info.bahai.org

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