Do you consider yourself a monotheist?

Monotheism is the belief in one God. How do many of the world’s major religions express this belief? When they answer that question, most people think of the so-called “Abrahamic Faiths”: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Did you know that there is a fourth Abrahamic faith? That would be the Baha’i Faith.

“Who says so?” you might ask. “Prove it!” Okay. I can take a dare. Here we go:

Alessandro Bausani

Alessandro Bausani

A great Italian scholar, Alessandro Bausani (1921–1988), said so. Bausani’s first great claim to fame? He translated the entire Qur’an from the original Arabic into Italian. Besides being a preeminent “Orientalist,” Bausani was a long-time Baha’i, and served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Italy.

Just to complicate matters, did you know other (non-Abrahamic) monotheistic religions exist, as well? Yes, they do. (I kid you not.) The most well-known monotheistic religion, outside of the Abrahamic faiths, is Zoroastrianism. It’s ancient, and it’s also a dying religion, just like Samaritanism.

In Bausani’s two major articles on monotheism, he published a unique typology, or general classification, of the monotheistic religions. His first article–one of the most brilliant papers I’ve ever read—is “Can Monotheism Be Taught?: (Further Considerations on the Typology of Monotheism).”

In his landmark research, Bausani gave us a typology of the world’s monotheisms that proposes three categories of belief in one God. His “triple scheme” can help us understand the relationship of Christianity to its parent religion, Judaism–and the relationship of the Baha’i Faith to its parent religion, Islam. Here Bausani describes his three categories:

1. Monotheisms proper (primary: Judaism and Islam; secondary: Christianity and the Baha’i Faith);

2. Failed monotheisms (primary: Zoroastrianism; secondary: Manichaeism; archaic: Akhenaton’s reform);

3. Para-monotheisms (Kabīrpanthīs, Dadhūpanthīs, Sikhs, Akbar’s dīn-ilāhī, etc.).

In lay terms, here’s what this means:

  1. Judaism and Islam are “primary monotheisms.” This means that Judaism arose in a polytheistic social world, where the people at that time believed in more than one god. Christianity and the Baha’i Faith are “secondary monotheisms.” This means that each was born from a monotheistic “parent” religion. Bausani’s typology regards Christianity the “daughter” religion of Judaism. Similarly, he describes the Baha’i Faith as the “daughter” religion of Islam.

  2. Then we have “failed monotheisms.” Remember I said that Zoroastrianism is now a “dying religion”? I guess that’s what Bausani means. Manichaeism, which more or less emerged in a Zoroastrian milieu, is a secondary failed monotheism. It “failed” because it no longer has any followers. So did Akhenaton’s reform, a short-lived, “archaic” faith that appeared in ancient Egypt.

  3. Bausani’s third category–“para-monotheisms”–describes religions that believe in a supreme deity, but somehow acknowledge other gods, too. The only familiar example, to a general audience, is the Sikh religion, which arose out of a society in India where Hinduism and Islam coexisted, but where Hindus and Muslims were not getting along. (We still see this in India today, from time to time.)

Where do you fit in Bausani’s typology? If you believe in one Supreme Being, then Bausani would probably consider you a primary or secondary monotheist. That’s why Bausani added the Baha’i Faith to the world’s monotheistic religions, because Baha’is firmly believe in the existence of one God:

Bear thou witness in thine inmost heart unto this testimony which God hath Himself and for Himself pronounced, that there is none other God but Him, that all else besides Him have been created by His behest, have been fashioned by His leave, are subject to His law, are as a thing forgotten when compared to the glorious evidences of His oneness, and are as nothing when brought face to face with the mighty revelations of His unity. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 192.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.


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  • Mar 26, 2015
    So, the theory of the 3 pillars (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) was not true! Baha'i is merely the daughter of Islam. The Quran is a vague book which contradicts itself on every single page, but is absolutely clear about Isa (Jesus): "They killed Him not." (Yusuf Ali Edition). Is that why a Baha'i could so easily despise and reject a Christian???
    • Kathryn Manifacier
      Oct 16, 2017
      It is quite evident that the verse you refer to means that the eternal, ever living reality of Jesus, the Christ, was in no way harmed by any of the attempts to destroy Him.
      This verse, like many in the world's Scriptures, has a spiritual, not a literal meaning.
      You would understand better if you made an effort to understand the Qur'an, rather than find something to start an argument.
      Your reasoning is similar to that of the Pharisees who rejected and condemned Jesus for claiming to be the Messiah because He fulfilled the Jewish ...prophecies spiritually, but not literally. The Revelation of Mohammed in no way opposes the promises of Jesus and the Bible - quite the contrary,
  • Nov 25, 2014
    Properly speaking, only the "people of Baha" believe in "One God" as all previous Prophets and Manifestations heralded the Gate, and the Gate was the herald of the Day of God itself. Abdulbaha states that all sects and peoples have formed "a god" whom they worship though this form is imaginary. That which was Hidden is now Manifest
    • Jul 09, 2015
      How about the fact that God is genderless and unknowable, according to the Baha'i Writings, yet in the English translations of the same writings God is continuously described as He, Lord, etc, just as in the past, perpetuating an impression of the Creator of all the worlds as an entity that cannot possibly exist as "he" according to its own writings, not to mention a patriarchal invention used to keep women inferior for century after century. Language is an extremely important device that conveys an important message. Are we giving women the impression that we do not take the equality ...of men and women as seriously as we say as well as perpetuating an ages old impression of God that cannot possibly be accurate?
  • Nov 25, 2014
    Properly speaking, on the "people of Baha" believe in "One God" as all previous Prophets and Manifestations heralded the Gate, and the Gate was the herald of the Day of God
  • Nov 23, 2014
    To Christopher's lucid essay may this amateur add laconically an afterword: "God or gods?"
    To more able pens deeply dipped into Bahá’í belongs the task of tenderly challenging Neopaganism and “the idolatrous worship of fabulous deities, and real daemons” which in some quarters and in the matchless phraseology of Gibbon the historian (1737-1794), if not in his opinion or mine, constitutes “the most abominable crime against the supreme majesty of the Creator.” An ironic subtitle whose sentiment prematurely presupposes the Final Destruction of Paganism while correctly chronicling the Introduction of the Worship of Saints, and Relics, among the Christians opens ...chapter XXVIII of his mighty Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, so esteemed by the inimitable Shoghi Effendi, the one and only Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith: “The ruin of Paganism, in the age of Theodosius [c.347-395 AD], is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition; and may therefore deserve to be considered, as a singular event in the history of the human mind…The zeal of the emperors was excited to vindicate their own honour [i.e. the Christian clergy’s vis-à-vis the context of Gibbon’s paragraph in question], and that of the Deity: and the temples of the Roman world were subverted, about sixty years after the conversion of Constantine [c.274-337 AD].” Rebutting a belief in gods (plural), as with Elijah and the 450 priests of Baal at Carmel, is cyclic and axial to all Manifestations of God, i.e. Founders of the several world Faiths. Fin de siècle is epitomized in Bahá’u’lláh and in Progressive Revelation, in his Writings and in his Universal House of Justice, situated on Mount Carmel, Israel, respectively from Hebrew – the Vineyard of God in the Land of God. (Matthew 20: 1-16 recounts the Parable of the Generous Employer and the Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, i.e. attaining the kingdom of God on earth as understood also in Hadith and regardless of the timing of one’s conversion. Various Faith-groups in a sense recognize and acknowledge the concept of progressive revelation, usually by another phrase, in that their Founders start their ministry by honouring the Prophets aforetime, as in Matthew 5:17) The worship of pictures and images is plainly addressed elsewhere by Abdu’l-Bahá in Some Answered Questions under the rubric The Two Classes of Prophets
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