What is Bahá'í?

Question
What is Bahá'í?
Answer
The Bahá'í faith is in every country except North Korea and Vatican City. It technically began with a Persian merchant named Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad Shirazi who came to be known as The Bab (meaning the "gate") in 1844 when he claimed to be a messenger from God and founded Babism. He introduced the idea of “He Whom God Shall Make Manifest” — a prophet like Jesus or Mohammad who would bring a greater message than his own. In 1852 a wealthy Persian named Baha'u'llah claimed to have had a vision while imprisoned and in 1863 announced that he was the second messenger promised by The Bab — the “gate” to the Hidden Twelfth Imam [1]. And the Bahá'í faith was founded.

In the Bahá'í faith, Baha'u'llah is understood to be the latest manifestation (or prophet) from God following Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, etc. While imprisoned for over 40 years, Baha'u'llah wrote over 100 volumes of writings. These, the Bible, Koran and others are considered among the sacred writings of Bahá'í.

What are Bahá'í beliefs? First, they do not believe in the Trinity. They claim that there is one God and no one can see him, thus implying that Jesus is not God. Similar in some respects to Buddhism, though people call God by different names, they believe that all religions worship the same God. It is taught that the Bahá'í faith has been progressively revealed throughout history by all other manifestations (or prophets) of God in different religions. They assert that no one manifestation of God (Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, etc.) is greater than any another. Since God created everything good, the physical desires of humanity are not evil, bad, or corrupt. Abdu'l-Baha, the son of Baha'u'llah and head of the Bahá'í faith from 1892-1921, declared total peace of the world was to come by the year 2000. They also do not see heaven and hell as real literal places; they are mere descriptions of a person's spiritual journey to the light of God after death. After death the soul takes a journey through many different worlds taking them closer and closer to God. Wherever they go is according to one's own efforts.

Note

[1] The Twelve Imams are the successors to the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Twelver branch of Shia Islam.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).