Baha'i Principles The central principles of the Baha'i Faith are the oneness of God, the o
The central principles of the Baha'i Faith are the oneness of God, the
oneness of religion, and the oneness of mankind. Baha'u'llah taught that
divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process and that the
missions of the messengers of God represent successive stages in the
spiritual evolution of human society. Baha'is believe that humanity is
one family created by God.
The Baha'i community promotes the unity of mankind and the establishment
of peace in the world. The teachings of the Baha'i Faith provide
solutions to problems which have been barriers to the achievement of
unity and peace.
Characteristics of the Baha'i Community
There is no clergy in the Baha'i Faith. Local meetings are planned by
the local Baha'i communities. Baha'i meetings include devotional
services, study classes, discussions, social events, and the observation
of holy days.
Baha'i religious and community activities are planned according to the
Baha'i calendar. The Baha'i Faith began in 1844 and each new calendar
year begins on the vernal equinox. The Baha'i year includes nine holy
days and a period of fasting near the end of the year.
The purpose of human life for Baha'is is to know and to worship God, and
to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. Baha'is have, for over
one hundred years, striven to bring about the unity of mankind, world
peace, and world order. To achieve these goals the Baha'i teachings
1. The fostering of good character and the development of spiritual
qualities, such as honesty, trustworthiness, compassion, and justice.
Prayer, meditation, and work done in the spirit of service to humanity
are expressions of the worship of God.
2. The eradication of prejudices of race, creed, class, nationality,
and sex. Racism retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities
of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress.
Recognition of the oneness of mankind, implemented by appropriate legal
measures, must be universally upheld if this problem is to be overcome.
3. The achievement of a dynamic coherence between the spiritual and
practical requirements of life on earth. There are spiritual principles
or values by which solutions can be found for every social problem. The
essential merit of a spiritual principle is that it not only presents a
perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human
nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration,
which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures.
4. The development of the unique talents and abilities of each
individual. Through the pursuit of knowledge, the acquisition of skills
for the practice of a trade or profession and participation in community
life both the individual and society as a whole are enriched.
5. The equality of women and men. The denial of such equality
perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and
promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the
family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to
6. The cause of universal education. Ignorance is indisputably the
principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples and the
perpetuation of prejudice. No nation can achieve success unless
education is accorded all its citizens.
Besides spiritual laws requiring daily prayer and an annual period of
fasting, the Baha'i Faith has social laws. It prescribes monogamy and
upholds the importance of chastity. Marriage is conditional upon the
consent of both parties and their parents. Divorce is discouraged in
the Baha'i community and Baha'i law requires a year of trial separation,
after which, if differences cannot be resolved, divorce is permissible.
Baha'i law also prohibits the use of alcoholic drinks and narcotics.
The Baha'i Faith is not aligned with any government or political party.
While they may accept non-partisan government posts and appointments,
Baha'is may not be members of any political faction or ideology.
Baha'is, both individually and collectively, are enjoined to obey the
laws of their respective states and the authority of the legally
constituted governments under which they live. Without regard for
political affiliation, Baha'is may vote in general elections and
participate in the ordinary civic life of their community. The
institutions and programs of the Baha'i Faith are supported exclusively
by voluntary contributions from its own members.
Baha'i Administrative Order
Free from any form of ecclesiasticism, having neither priesthood nor
manmade ritual, and forbidding asceticism, monasticism, and mendicancy,
the Baha'i Faith relies on a pattern of local, national, and
international administration, created by Baha'u'llah, elaborated by
Abdu'l-Baha, and implemented by Shoghi Effendi. There are currently
approximately 20,000 local assemblies and over 150 National Assemblies
throughout the world.
The affairs of the local Baha'i community are administered by a nine-
member local Spiritual Assembly elected annually. Nationally, a nine-
member body is elected each year by delegates who have in turn been
elected by Baha'is at the local level. The international governing
body, the Universal House of Justice, is elected once every five years
in Haifa, Israel at an international convention attended by members of
the national assemblies. All Baha'i elections are by secret ballot,
with no nominations or electioneering.
In administering the affairs of the community, the institutions of the
Baha'i Faith practice a form of consultation that involves full and
frank discussion of issues under consideration. Matters are discussed
with a desire to ascertain the facts and to come to a decision that is
based on spiritual principles and is unencumbered by personal attachment
to points of view. The Baha'i writings state: "The shining spark of
truth comes forth only after the clash of differing opinions." While
the goal of consultation is unanimous agreement upon a course of action,
when unanimity cannot be reached, a vote is taken, and the decision of
the majority prevails.
Houses of Worship
The central position of prayer and meditation in Baha'i individual and
community life places emphasis on houses of worship in villages, towns,
and cities. At present, Houses of Worship exist in Wilmette, Illinois,
U.S.A.; Frankfurt-am-Main, West Germany; Kampala, Uganda; Sidney,
Australia; Panama City, Panama; New Delhi, India; and Apia, Western
Samoa. Services of worship consist of the recitation of Baha'i
scriptures and scriptures of the other divinely revealed religions and
"a capella" music is also allowed. Eventually, each locality will have
its own house of worship, which will serve as the point around which the
scientific, educational, humanitarian, and administrative institutions
of the Baha'i community revolve. Many local Baha'i communities currently
own properties used for activities.
Social and Economic Development Projects
Baha'i communities throughout the world are involved in social and
economic development activities that serve the needs of local
populations. National Spiritual Assemblies currently manage over 900
development projects, a majority of the which are the result of
grassroots efforts operating with little or no outside support.
Activities in health and social services, communications, agriculture
and forestry, and community development encourage work in the spirit of
service to mankind. The emphasis in Baha'i teachings on the necessity
of universal education has inspired the establishment of more than 500
tutorial schools and training centers in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Baha'i communities operate 29 formal primary and secondary schools.
Social and economic development projects world-wide also include medical
centers, programs for women, cooperative savings programs, building
renovation, arts and theater groups, communal farms and cooperative
fishing projects, homes for refugees and for the aged, and computer
education to assist low income families.
Seven educational radio stations currently operate in Liberia, Panama,
Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and the United States, to serve the local
populations. Programs in native languages offer advice on health care,
crop management, animal husbandry, and child development. Relationship
to the United Nations The Baha'i International Community has accredited
consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC) and with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). It is
also affiliated with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and,
since 1948, with the UN Office of Public Information. It has
representatives with the United Nations in New York, Geneva, and
Nairobi. Local Baha'i communities are encouraged to support the UN's
various humanitarian projects. The Baha'i International Community
participates in meetings of UN agencies concerned with human rights,
social development, the status of women, the environment, human
settlement, food, science and technology, population, the law of the
sea, crime prevention, substance abuse, youth, children, the family,
disarmament, and the United Nations University.
The Baha'i Faith was founded in Persia (Iran) by Mirza Husayn-Ali (1817-
1892), known as Baha'u'llah, the "Glory of God". The word "Baha'i"
derives from baha ("glory" or "splendor") and means a follower of
Baha'u'llah. The Baha'i Faith is linked with the Babi Faith, founded in
1844 by Mirza Ali-Muhammad (1819-1850), known as the Bab or "Gate". The
Bab announced that He was not only the founder of an independent
religion, but the herald of a new and far greater prophet or messenger
of God, Who would usher in an age of peace for all mankind. The Bab was
executed by Persian authorities in 1850 in an attempt to crush His
religion. In 1863, Baha'u'llah declared that He was the one prophesied
by the Bab.
Baha'u'llah was exiled from Iran to various places within the Ottoman
Empire, and in 1868 was sent as a prisoner to the fortress city of Akka
in Palestine. He passed away in 1892. In His will, He appointed His
eldest son, Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), to lead the Baha'i community and to
interpret the Baha'i Writings. Abdu'l-Baha in turn appointed His eldest
grandson, Shoghi Effendi (1896-1957), as His successor, the Guardian of
the Cause, and the authorized interpreter of the Baha'i teachings. To
day the affairs of the world-wide Baha'i community are administered by
the Universal House of Justice.
Baha'i World Center
The Baha'i World Center is in the Holy Land. From the time of
Baha'u'llah's exile to Akka, the spiritual and administrative center of
the Faith has been established in the two cities of Akka and Haifa. The
Baha'i Holy Places in Israel consist of the Shrines of Baha'u'llah and
The Bab and historic sites associated with Them. Baha'u'llah instructed
that the World Center of His Faith should be in the vicinity of these
Shrines. The Seat of the Universal House of Justice is located on Mt.
Carmel in Haifa.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank