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Baha’is get asked this question fairly often: “What does it mean to be a Baha’i?”
We generally try to explain that Baha’is belong to the world’s newest major Faith, founded by Baha’u’llah, a 19th Century Persian mystic, prophet and prisoner who taught the unity of all nations, races and religions:
The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 215.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that short explanation. Answering that basic question can take a minute, an hour or a lifetime.
Because the Baha’i Faith tends to spread its message gently and quietly, not everyone has heard of it. But in the past 150 years, it has become one of the most widespread religions on Earth. Because Baha’is come from every nationality, background, ethnicity, social classe, and every beautiful color of the human race, you probably have Baha’is living in your community or somewhere near you.
If you look carefully you might even recognize them.
Baha’is generally tend toward happiness, try to have a positive, radiant, healthy outlook on life, and express their love for humanity by engaging in volunteer work for children, the elderly and the poor. Baha’is do their utmost to exemplify the spiritual teachings of Baha’u’llah, which call upon everyone to know and love God and carry forth an ever-advancing civilization.
Be kind to all people, love humanity, consider all mankind as your relations and servants of the most high God. Strive day and night that animosity and contention may pass away from the hearts of men, that all religions shall become reconciled and the nations love each other so that no racial, religious or political prejudice may remain and the world of humanity behold God as the beginning and end of all existence. God has created all, and all return to God. Therefore, love humanity with all your heart and soul. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.
So this series of nine short essays attempts to answer two of the most common questions people who encounter the Baha’i teachings ask – what does it mean to be a Baha’i, and how do you become one? We’ll begin with the uniquely Baha’i idea of the essential unity of all Faiths.
Baha’is believe that all of the founders of the world’s major religions—including Moses, Krishna, Abraham, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and now Baha’u’llah—have appeared at intervals throughout history to write the chapters in a single great Faith.
Together these messengers and prophets of God, sent by a loving Supreme Being to enable us to seek the answers to our deepest inner questions, have created a sequential, linked outpouring of mystical and practical teachings throughout human history. Baha’is call that pattern “progressive revelation.”
Simply, Baha’is see the entire epic scope of religious revelation and belief as one single system—not as competing messages from disparate and conflicting messengers. Baha’is focus on the unity of all Faiths, the common messages of their prophets and founders, and the essential oneness of their teachings.
Baha’is believe that one God has given humanity one continuous Faith.
Like teachers in a school, the founders of the world’s great Faiths progressively reveal the knowledge and insight humanity needs to keep learning, progressing and moving forward.
This simple and yet profound way to look at religion means Baha’is accept all of the major Faiths as legitimate and true. Religion is one, Baha’u’llah taught, revealed over the course of time by one loving God through a series of Divine Educators.
As you might expect, Baha’is come from Christian, Muslem, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and all other religious traditions; and Baha’is also come from agnostic and atheist and spiritual backgrounds, as well.
Becoming a Baha’i means embracing the one Faith that does not reject other Faiths.
The essence of the Baha’i teachings—love, harmony and peace—reflect the deepest messages contained in all traditions and spiritual truths. Baha’is want to spread the love and unity Baha’u’llah describes, so the Baha’i community welcomes everyone. Please follow along in this series of articles as we discover how Baha’is lead their lives and what it means to be a Baha’i.