One of the world's newer religions, the Baha'i faith was founded by Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri who became known as Bahaʾ Ullah. He believed he was a prophet, or messenger, of God. The Bahaʾi faith started in what is now Iran in the mid-1800s and spread to other countries such as Egypt and India. At the end of the 20th century about 7 million people around the world followed the Bahaʾi faith.
Beliefs and Practices
The Bahaʾi's main belief is that all religions are one and all people are one. Bahaʾis believe that God is beyond understanding. They also believe that all the founders of the world's great religions are messengers of God. Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and Bahaʾ Ullah are some of these messengers. According to this faith, one should worship God and try to make the world a better place. The final goal is to bring together all people in one religion. Bahaʾis work to end all types of prejudice.
The Bahaʾi religion has no priests or special ceremonies. There are rules about prayer and fasting, however. Also, a person is supposed to marry only once. One should not use alcohol and tobacco. Members are expected to attend the Nineteen Day Feast on the first day of each month of the Bahaʾi calendar. These services are extremely simple. There is no preaching. Members listen to readings from the scriptures of all religions.
The Bahaʾis use a special calendar. The year is divided into 19 months of 19 days each. It has an additional four days (five in leap years). The year begins on the first day of spring, March 21, which is one of several holy days in the Bahaʾi calendar.
The Bahaʾi religion had its roots in the Shiʿite branch of Islam. Shiʿites believe that the 12th imam (successor of Muhammad) will one day appear to guide the faithful. A man named Mirza ʾAli Mohammad started a group called the Babi in Persia (now Iran) in 1844. The Babi believed that a new messenger of God would soon appear. Mirza ʾAli became known as the Bab, and his teachings spread throughout Persia. Muslim leaders and the government opposed his ideas, however. The Bab was arrested, and in 1850 he was killed. Many of his followers were also persecuted, or treated badly.
One of the Bab's first followers was Mirza Hoseyn ʾAli Nuri. After he joined the Babis, he called himself Bahaʾ Ullah. He was arrested in 1852 and put in jail. There he realized that he was the new messenger of God that the Bab had said would appear.
Bahaʾ Ullah was released in 1853 and sent to Iraq. He led the Babi community there. In 1863 he announced he was the new messenger. The Babis who believed him were called the Bahaʾis.
Bahaʾ Ullah made his oldest son the leader of the Bahaʾi community. Bahaʾ Ullah died in 1892. After Bahaʾ Ullah's death, his son led the group. He succeeded in spreading the faith to North America, Europe, and other continents.
The Bahaʾi faith grew quickly beginning in the 1960s. There are now Bahaʾi temples around the world. In the United States, there is a temple in Wilmette, Illinois.