Bahāʾī Faith, religion founded in Iraq in the mid-19th century by Mīrzā Ḥosayn ʿAlī Nūrī, who is known as Bahāʾ Allāh (Arabic: “Glory of God”). The cornerstone of Bahāʾī belief is the conviction that Bahāʾ Allāh and his forerunner, who was known as the Bāb (Persian: “Gateway”), were manifestations of God, who in his essence is unknowable. The principal Bahāʾī tenets are the essential unity of all religions and the unity of humanity. Bahāʾīs believe that all the founders of the world’s great religions have been manifestations of God and agents of a progressive divine plan for the education of the human race. Despite their apparent differences, the world’s great religions, according to the Bahāʾīs, teach an identical truth. Bahāʾ Allāh’s peculiar function was to overcome the disunity of religions and establish a universal faith. Bahāʾīs believe in the oneness of humanity and devote themselves to the abolition of racial, class, and religious prejudices. The great bulk of Bahāʾī teachings is concerned with social ethics. The faith has no priesthood and does not observe ritual forms in its worship. Nineteen Day Feast History The Bahāʾī religion originally grew out of the Bābī faith, or sect, which was founded in 1844 by Mīrzā ʿAlī Moḥammad of Shīrāz in Iran. He proclaimed a spiritual doctrine emphasizing the forthcoming appearance of a new prophet or messenger of God who would overturn old beliefs and customs and usher in a new era. Though new, these beliefs originated in Twelver Shiʿi Islam, which asserts a belief in the forthcoming return of the 12th imam (successor of Muhammad), who will renew religion and guide the faithful. Mīrzā ʿAlī Moḥammad first proclaimed his beliefs in 1844 and assumed the title of the Bāb. Soon the Bāb’s teachings spread throughout Iran, provoking strong opposition from both the Shiʿi Muslim clergy and the government. The Bāb was arrested and, after several years of incarceration, was executed in 1850. Large-scale persecutions of his adherents, the Bābīs, followed. One of the Bāb’s earliest disciples and strongest exponents was Mīrzā Ḥosayn ʿAlī Nūrī, who had assumed the name Bahāʾ Allāh when he renounced his social standing and joined the Bābīs. Bahāʾ Allāh was arrested in 1852 and jailed in Tehrān, where he became aware that he was the prophet and messenger of God whose coming had been predicted by the Bāb. He was released in 1853 and exiled to Baghdad, where his leadership revived the Bābī community. In 1863, shortly before being moved by the Ottoman government to Constantinople (now Istanbul), Bahāʾ Allāh declared to his fellow Bābīs that he was the messenger of God foretold by the Bāb. An overwhelming majority of Bābīs acknowledged his claim and thenceforth became known as Bahāʾīs. Bahāʾ Allāh was subsequently confined by the Ottomans in Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) and then in Acre in Palestine (now ʿAkko, Israel).
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