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Baha'I

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Baha'i

Baha'i is a fairly new faith dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. However, since then more than 7 million people, world wide have joined this faith. This leaves one to wonder how this faith came to be one of the world religions in such a short period of time. This paper will examine this thought and many others such as the history, beliefs, and traditions.

History

The followers of Baha'is emerged from Iranians who had formerly been Shi'i Muslims (Smith, 1999). According to Breuilly, O'Brien, & Palmer (1997), the Baha'i faith began to take shape when Mirza Husayn Ali, born in 1817, was sent by God to serve as a prophet. Today, Ali is known at Baha'u'llah, meaning Glory of God. As with other prophets, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad; Baha'u'llah is considered just as important (Hatcher & Martin, 2002). All of these prophets are viewed as providing a path to salvation which contributes to the carrying forward of an ever advancing civilization (Hatcher & Martin). No one is more or less important as the other as each is sent with a purpose.

In 1884 Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, known as the Bab, announced that he was a Bab, which according to Shi'a tradition means a gate through whom God communicates with humanity (Breuilly, O'Brien, & Palmer, 1997). This announcement left an uneasy feeling through the region. However, Siyyid did gain followers, known as Babis, who believed that a new era of revelation was about to begin.

This revelation left Bab and his followers marked for death. In 1850, Bab was executed for his belief as with many of his followers. However, before Bab died he did say that a new prophet was being sent, this prophet was Baha'u'llah (Breuilly, O'Brien, & Palmer, 1997).

Baha'u'llah was a follower of Bab's, who was arrested after Bab's death. Upon Baha'u'llah's release from prison, he was exiled to the Ottoman Empire. Baha'u'llah then went into hiding for two years. In 1863, Baha'u'llah announced that he was the new prophet. The Ottoman rulers did not know how to respond to this announcement and kept him under house arrest for the next five years. He was then exiled to what we know today as Israel.

After his exile to Israel, the Baha'i faith was allowed to spread. Baha'u'llah enjoyed writing and began to write his messages from God. Upon his death in 1892, he appointed his son, Abdul Baha, the only authority capable of interpreting his revelations (Breuilly, O'Brien, & Palmer, 1997). "During Abdul Baha's time the Baha'is became an international faith" (Breuilly, O'Brien, & Palmer, 1997, p 150).

Traditions: Practices

Baha'i does not consist of any traditional practices or rituals, but they do have different teachings of Baha'u'llah that one should follow.

Baha'u'llah teachings consist of may different areas that represent a more meaningful life. One of which is marriage and family, Baha'u'llah teaches that in order to obtain individual spiritual progress one must focus on family. This is considered the basis building block of society. Baha'u'llah encourages marriage, but only monogamy and between opposite sex (Bowers, 2004).

As with most religions, Baha'is strongly discourage divorce. This should only be considered if insurmountable circumstances make it impossible to reconcile. However, husband and wife are expected to try to repair their marriage for at least one year after separation before the divorce is finalized (Bowers, 2004).

Baha'u'llah places great emphasis on the unity of family and the mutual support of its members. "True marriage-the physical and spiritual union of two people with the aim of serving God and humanity - is one of the most rewarding and joyous aspects of life" (Bowers, 2004. pp 194 & 195).

Another teaching is of work and services. In this he teaches that people need to be engaged in a profession. It is not important which profession one chooses as long as it is done in the spirit of service (Bowers, 2004).

"Baha'is believe that each human being has an immortal soul. The soul is the spiritual reality of a person, which does not die when their body dies. It moves to another plane of existence, which we can not understand while we are on earth" (www.bbc.co.uk). This appears to tie in with their belief that while on earth, it is our duty to obtain spiritual discovery and growth.

Beliefs: Scriptures

"Baha'is believe there is one God and that all the universe and creation belong to him. God is omnipotent, perfect and has complete knowledge of life. Baha'is believe that there has only ever been on God, who is called by different names in different religions" (www.bbc.co.uk/religion).

There scriptures include over one hundred books and tablets. "Bahб'н scripture comprises the writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, together with the writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Among the better known writings of Baha'u'llah are, The Most Holy Book, The Book of Certitude, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words and The Seven Valleys. There are many others books of Bahб'н scripture" (http://www.religioustolerance.org.)

Although Baha'is find these scriptures meaningful, they do not supersede earlier revelations of the Torah, the New Testimate or the Qur'an (Breuilly, O'Brien, & Palmer, 1997).

"Baha'is follow the laws of the Ten Commandments. They also forbid gambling, alcohol, drug abuse, and gossip. They strive to live a life of high moral standards emphasizing honesty, trustworthiness, service to others, chastity, purity of motive, generosity, unity, and work as a form of worship" (www.religiousmovements).

Beliefs: God and Place of Worship

"Baha'is see themselves are a people with a mission to bring harmony and unity in the world, and this is reflected in their spiritual practice" (www.bbc.co.uk/religion). Their main purpose of life is to know and love God. In order to achieve this purpose, they have three main ways: prayer, fasting, and meditation. All of this will bring them closer to knowing and loving God.

Baha'is believe that prayer is more of a conversation with God, while meditation brings them closer to one's inner spirit. They also believe that God can not become incarnate in a human being and

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