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…this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the Promised One. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 10.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith who lived during the 19th Century, brought humanity the latest world religion. Baha’u’llah, which means “the glory of God,” taught that the “day of God” had dawned, the unique time when the renewal of religion takes place. Baha’is believe that in 1863, when the Baha’i Faith began, the Promised One of the ages appeared—the prophet foretold and pledged by all the past prophets. That great announcement, the Baha’i teachings say, has now ushered in a new era in human history:
This is the Voice of God, if ye do but hearken. This is the Day Spring of the Revelation of God, did ye but know it. This is the Dawning-Place of the Cause of God, were ye to recognize it. This is the Source of the commandment of God, did ye but judge it fairly. This is the manifest and hidden Secret; would that ye might perceive it. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 33.
The prophets and messengers who originally founded the world’s great Faiths—Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, Muhammad and now Baha’u’llah—all delivered their revolutionary messages in exactly the same way. They each received a revelation and freely offered their teachings to those who listened and believed. Once hidden, they each manifested the previously secret wisdom of the Creator, and as they proclaimed their new Faiths the spiritual power of that revelation reverberated in human souls.
Even when persecuted and pilloried by the authorities of their respective cultures, the prophets’ messages still animated a small, committed group of initial believers, changing their lives and compelling them toward new spiritual aspirations. After the original prophet had departed, those believers, through their radiance and love, inspired an increasing number of people with the new messenger’s teachings. Initially rejected and reviled by most, those teachings eventually became the belief systems of billions.
This consistent pattern of revelation explains one of the central principles of the Baha’i Faith: the unity of all religions. Baha’is regard each of the messengers of God and the founders of faith as one:
The Bearers of the Trust of God are made manifest unto the peoples of the earth as the Exponents of a new Cause and the Revealers of a new Message. Inasmuch as these Birds of the celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they, therefore, are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness. – Ibid., p. 50.
Baha’u’llah suffered for teaching his new Faith. Despite his gentleness and kindness, the rapid growth of his Faith threatened the status quo. Baha’is embraced Baha’u’llah’s teachings—love for all humanity, peace and unity among all religions, equality and justice for everyone—and suffered the consequences, many of them giving their freedom and their lives for their beliefs. Jailed, tortured and exiled by the religious and governmental authorities of the Ottoman Empire in his native Persia, Baha’u’llah spent the last forty years of his life as a prisoner:
When Baha’u’llah appeared in Persia, all the contemporaneous religious sects and systems rose against Him. His enemies were kings. The enemies of Christ were the Jews, the Pharisees; but the enemies of Baha’u’llah were rulers who could command armies and bring hundreds of thousands of soldiers into the arena of operation. These kings represented some fifty million people, all of whom under their influence and domination were opposed to Baha’u’llah. Therefore, in effect Baha’u’llah, singly and alone, virtually withstood fifty million enemies. Yet these great numbers, instead of being able to dominate Him, could not withstand His wonderful personality and the power and influence of His heavenly Cause. Although they were determined upon extinguishing the light in that most brilliant lantern, they were ultimately defeated and overthrown, and day by day His splendor became more radiant. They made every effort to lessen His greatness, but His prestige and renown grew in proportion to their endeavors to diminish it. Surrounded by enemies who were seeking His life, He never sought to conceal Himself, did nothing to protect Himself; on the contrary, in His spiritual might and power He was at all times visible before the faces of men, easy of access, serenely withstanding the multitudes who were opposing Him. At last His banner was upraised. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 431-432.
Today, the Baha’i Faith has spread around the world, becoming the second-most widespread religion on Earth. Once a hidden secret, the Baha’i Faith becomes a more manifest and better-known belief system every day. Millions of people from all backgrounds, cultures, former faiths, tribes, races and ethnic groups have become followers of Baha’u’llah.
Please join us as we explore that question in this series of essays about the basic Baha’i beliefs.
Next: Who was Baha’u’llah—and Why Do So Many People Follow Him?